Sunday, July 31, 2011

China and the Afghan Endgame...

China and the Afghan Endgame...

BEIJING – Ever since US President Barack Obama decided to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, global interest in what role (if any) China will play in determining that war-ravaged country’s future has grown dramatically. After all, China is not merely a neighbor of Afghanistan, but the world’s most important rising power – indeed, a “world power,” as Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff proclaimed in Beijing this past June.

If China proves itself willing to help shore up Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration, it will not seek to gain any immediate advantage from the withdrawal of US forces. But, despite the billions of dollars China has invested in developing Afghanistan’s natural resources, it is hard to see it undertaking a policy of broader and proactive engagement there.

One reason why China is wary of assuming a bigger role in Afghanistan, despite the country’s undoubted importance for regional stability, is that America’s war there has been controversial in China from the outset. Chinese nationalists believe that the war was undertaken by the US partly in order to place its military near one of China’s most sensitive borders. Moreover, to supply its Afghan forces, the US deepened its military footprint in Central Asia by renting the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, which also shares a border with China.

In the eyes of Chinese nationalists, these efforts were all the part of an American conspiracy to encircle China. Thus, Chinese nationalists can’t wait to see the back of America’s Afghan military presence.

For Chinese strategic realists, any support for America’s efforts to help end the Afghan insurgency should be part of a broader China-US bargain. China might agree not to undermine America as it withdraws only if the US agrees to rethink its arms sales to Taiwan, or to pull back from its commitment to support Japan’s claims to the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, the ownership of which China disputes. Obviously, such deals will be unwelcome in the US.

Given that neither Chinese foreign-policy camp believes that it will get what it wants out of cooperating with the US, both simply want America’s withdrawal to happen as soon as possible, without concern for what Afghanistan will look like afterwards. For both camps, only great-power politics matters for China’s national security, and if diplomacy cannot influence the balance of power, there is little reason to engage with an issue.

For Chinese liberals, Afghanistan is fraught with ethnic threats. By recklessly denying China’s request to extradite Uighur extremists to China for trial, the US showed scant regard for an issue of paramount importance – the threat posed to China’s hard-won unity by separatists. Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang province were captured in Taliban training campus and jailed at Guantánamo Bay with other international terrorists from 2002 through 2009. China thought their extradition necessary to undercutting international sympathy for Uighur independence seekers. But the US worried about the potential for human-rights abuses in China and rejected the Uighur's’ extradition.

Indeed, former President George W. Bush welcomed Rebiya Kadeer, a leader of the exiled Uighur independence movement, to the White House, embittering many Chinese. And given that the Uighur bastion of Xinjiang is close to China’s borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US was unwise to raise Chinese hackles in this way.

Of course, a stable, orderly, and secular Afghanistan serves China’s interests as much as it benefits the rest of the world. Yet few Chinese are willing to confess that the US-led Afghanistan war, which removed the Taliban and Al Qaeda from their dominant roles in the country, improved China’s domestic security. That refusal is clearly the result of the “structural” ambivalence that now exists between the US and China.

The extent to which China will engage Afghanistan positively will depend in large part on whether China rids itself of the prevailing zero-sum mindset and facilitates America’s military withdrawal by doing what it can to stabilize the country.

China can help by stiffening the resolve of Pakistan’s military to move more aggressively to contain Taliban extremists on its territory; open border regions to help resupply NATO forces in Afghanistan; and invest in the country’s infrastructure. Indeed, China’s relations with Pakistan have assumed greater importance recently, owing to the tensions that now exist between Pakistan and the US.

The Obama administration’s challenge nowadays is to calibrate its recent suspension of some military aid to Pakistan in order to maximize its leverage without pushing the government even closer to the extremists. By working with the US on Pakistan, China can help secure its own interest in a strong Pakistani campaign against the militants on its territory. Regardless of the Bush-era disputes with the US over the Uighur prisoners at Guantánamo, China is in a better position to tell its “all-weather” friends in Islamabad that stabilizing Afghanistan is not only an American objective, but a significant Chinese goal as well.

China’s cooperation may not be essential to defeating Al Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan, but it will be if lasting peace and stability is to be realized. Chinese and US interests in Afghanistan are unlikely ever to be perfectly aligned, but the two sides can and must learn to cooperate for their own benefit, and that of the region. The challenge for China is to exert its power and influence in a way that harmonizes with the US, despite widespread displeasure among Chinese at America’s position on a variety of issues, from Taiwan to the East and South China seas.

The violence occurred as China’s Muslims prepare to celebrate Ramadan on Monday

BEIJING – A day before the start of the holy fasting month for China’s Muslims, at least 11 people were killed in a series of attacks in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

“There were cries and blood everywhere … Terrified people flooded into our office to hide,” Yang Hongmei, a female resident in Xinjaing, told the official Xinhua news agency.

At least eight people were killed when two attacks rocked the far-west city of Kashgar before two gunmen using knives went on assaulting residents.

“Our security guards tried to save the residents while our manager attempted to subdue an attacker by holding him, but the man had a knife and stabbed him in his abdomen,” said Yang.

Three people, including a policeman, were also killed and 28 injured in an explosion in the same city.

The attacks came less than two weeks after 18 people were killed in an attack in the restive Xinjiang region....

Taking bilateral defense relations to a new high, China will give Pakistan a squadron of the advanced J-10B fighter aircraft, a media report said.
The offer was made by senior Chinese military leaders to visiting Pakistan Army’s Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the Urdu daily Jang reported Saturday, quoting defense sources.
The J-10B fighters are equipped with the latest weapons and Pakistan will be the first country, after China, to have these advanced aircraft, it said.
During his visit, Lt.Gen.Arshad was assured that the defense relationship between the two countries will reach new heights and China’s efforts for the safety and security of Pakistan will be never-ending.....

Friday, July 29, 2011

War Clouds Again in the Caucasus, USA Setting Western Eurasia On Fire, While NATO Slips Into Central Asia...

War Clouds Again in the Caucasus, USA Setting Western Eurasia On Fire, While NATO Slips Into Central Asia...

30 07 2011

[The would-be masters of the known universe are betting their asses on their behavior modification capabilities. They are setting more fires than they have firemen.]

Three years after the Russia-Georgia armed conflict, war clouds are again gathering in the Caucasus.

Already deadlocked for years, the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan hit a brick wall on June 24 in Kazan, when a much-anticipated peace summit broke up without agreement. PresidentDmitry Medvedevhad put his personal authority behind the talks, having personally convened nine previous meetings between the two leaders over the past two years.

Now, there is increasing talk of war — a war that would be presumably started by Azerbaijan in a bid to regain the province of Karabakh and the surrounding districts that were seized by Armenian forces during the war from 1992 to 1994. Armenia argues that the Armenian residents of Karabakh have a right to independence and that it is unrealistic to expect Armenians to live as a minority under Azerbaijan’s rule given the history of animosity between the two sides. Each side cites atrocities against civilians committed by their adversary during a conflict that erupted in 1988.

It has become common to describe the standoff as a clash between two competing principles — “self-determination” for Karabakh versus “territorial integrity” for Azerbaijan. This makes the dispute sound like a technical difference of opinion, one that a few good lawyers could easily resolve.

In reality, there is no difference over moral or legal principles between the two sides. Rather, as in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is a question of “two peoples — one land.” The disagreement is over who owns a specific piece of real estate: Karabakh, a land-locked mountain region having no particular economic or strategic value and with a population of just over 100,000.

Karabakh has come to have deep symbolic significance for both parties. For Azerbaijan, it is a question of erasing the humiliation of military defeat and seeking justice for the 600,000 refugees that fled into the remainder of Azerbaijan as a result of the war. The refugees are roughly equal to the number of Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948, yet they have been virtually ignored by the international community. For Armenia, it is about holding on to territory after a century during which Armenian residents have been progressively driven from their lands. That process culminated in the massacres — or genocide — that occurred during World War I, a tragedy that still overshadows and immeasurably complicates the conflict over Karabakh.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe proposed some basic principles for a peace settlement back in 2007. The core idea is temporary recognition of Karabakh’s self-rule in return for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the other occupied districts. These Madrid Principles fudge the question of sovereignty by allowing for a referendum on self-determination in Karabakh at some point in the future. Armenia is being asked to give up something concrete —occupied territories — in return for something ephemeral — promises about a future referendum.

The main carrot being offered Armenia in return for leaving the occupied districts around Karabakh is the opening of the border with Turkey, which was closed by Ankara in solidarity with Azerbaijan in 1993. The 2008 Russia-Georgia war threatened Armenia’s land transit route through Georgia, leaving them dependent on access from Iran. A concerted international effort to persuade Turkey to open the border narrowly failed in October 2009, when domestic political opposition caused Turkey to retreat from an agreement to open the border that was signed with great fanfare in Zurich.

Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has repeatedly stated that independence for Karabakh is non-negotiable, so Armenia’s reticence about moving ahead with the peace process is understandable. Why is Aliyev continuing to negotiate in the face of Armenian intransigence? If Aliyev can convince the international community that Armenia is blocking the Madrid Principles, that could give him some political cover for launching a war. Aliyev claims that time is on Baku’s side, since Armenia’s population is shrinking due to its stagnant economy, while Azerbaijan is booming thanks to its oil wealth. But Aliyev faces re-election in 2013, and keeping the lid on the opposition will be more difficult absent some progress on Karabakh. In addition, starting in 2014, Azerbaijan’s oil production will be past its peak, and revenues will start to fall.

Even some liberals are saying that a short war — a war in which neither side would probably achieve victory — could clear the way for real negotiations. The model is the 1973 Yom Kippur war, which Egyptian President Anwar Sadat claimed as a victory and which opened the door to the Camp David peace talks.

More important, an indecisive war would discredit the hawks on both sides, enabling peacemakers to strike a bargain without facing a coup when they returned home. Azerbaijan’s gross domestic product is five times that of Armenia, and Baku spent $3 billion in 2010 on its military, more than Armenia’s entire budget. But Armenia has taken delivery of sophisticated Russian hardware, including the S-300 air defense system and is home to a Russian military base housing 5,000 troops, whose tenure was extended last year through 2044.

Thus, an attack on Armenia by Azerbaijan could well trigger Russian intervention, just like Russia’s response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia in 2008. Aliyev has been trying to maintain good relations with Russia in the hope that Moscow will press Armenia to agree to a settlement and will stay on the sidelines in a future conflict.

The main factor preventing a war is that none of the great powers want to see a resumption of hostilities. The West does not want to see a disruption of oil supplies, and for Russia a war would trigger a wave of refugees and possibly increased Western intervention in their Caucasus backyard. But the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 was a reminder that the major powers cannot always control their smaller allies and client states. If war were to break out, Russia would probably back Armenia because it must be seen as standing up for its main ally in the region. The mere threat of Russian intervention serves as a deterrent to Turkey entering the war in support of Azerbaijan. At the same time, however, Azerbaijan is arguably a more valuable ally for Russia than Armenia because of its important strategic location on the Caspian. Winning Azerbaijan away from the United States would be a substantial strategic gain for Moscow.

In any event, given the large and influential Armenian diaspora in the West, Armenia should not be placed indefinitely in the Russia camp. A few years down the road and a color revolution in Yerevan could see a pro-Western government there. Hopefully, cool heads will prevail, and the existing situation of neither war nor peace will stagger on through another hot summer.

Peter Rutland is professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Armenian President Sarksyan’s controversial words sparked harsh criticism from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. In defense of recent remarks made by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan that were considered by Turkish officials an encouragement for young students to fulfill the task of their generation and occupy eastern Turkey, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan rejected the interpretation, saying Sarksyan’s words were “interpreted out of context.” “I believe Turks failed to read the full text, interpreting the president’s words out of context. Serzh Sarksyan’s statement is serious and reasonable,” Kocharyan was quoted as saying in a news report by Armenian news web portal on Wednesday. Claiming that all the attention to the remarks, which he called “hysteria” in his statement, was created by Turkey, Kocharyan suggested that Turkey refuses to make sense of the remarks on eastern Turkey “because the country [Turkey] does not need to do so.”

The argument was initiated when Sarksyan replied to a question from a student whether “Western Armenia,” including Mount Ağrı (Mount Ararat), would ever be united with the rest of Armenia, saying that the success of this task depended on future Armenian generations. “When it was necessary, in the beginning of the 1990s, to defend a part of our fatherland — Karabakh — from the enemy, we did it,” said the Armenian leader in a justification of the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, an issue still awaiting resolution, and repeated that “each generation has its responsibilities and they have to be carried out with honor.”

Sarksyan’s words sparked harsh criticism from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who responded harshly during a joint press conference with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, condemning the remarks. He called them a “historic mistake” that should be corrected. Erdoğan stated that the remarks amount to an invitation to schoolchildren to occupy eastern Turkish lands which Armenia considers their historical homeland. The significance for Armenians of Mount Ağrı stems from a belief that the Armenians first adopted Christianity as an official religion in A.D. 301 in the area surrounding the mountain, which is now located on the eastern Turkish border with Armenia.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a written statement strongly condemning Sarksyan’s remarks, which they interpreted as an “indication that Mr. Sarksyan has no intention of working for peace,” adding that “it is the responsibility of statesmen to prepare their societies, particularly their youth, for a peaceful future instead of provoking them into adopting an ideology of hate.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış also stated on Wednesday that Sarksyan’s remarks show that he does not comprehend the peaceful hand Turkey has extended to his country. “What Sarksyan has done was shoot himself in the foot. We hope the best response to Sarksyan’s delusion is given to him by the Armenian youth,” Bağış told the Anatolia news agency.

Two years ago, Turkey and Armenia were on the verge of signing a twin protocol aimed at normalization between the two countries and establishing diplomatic ties, but the parties failed to agree on preconditions, which ended up blocking the path to normalization.

On a separate note, Armenia has held the upper hand over the thorny Nagorno-Karabakh issue since the country occupied the landlocked region inside Azerbaijani borders in 1994. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region is still awaiting the outcome of an international project for a solution, supervised by the Minsk Group, founded in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. The efficiency and legitimacy of the Minsk Group has been disputed as Azerbaijan has, at times, pointed to a biased attitude of the chairing countries, which host populous Armenian diasporas, and to the fact that the Minsk Group has failed, for almost two decades, to come up with an effective solution. Armenia is currently in possession of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory.

WASHINGTON — Retired CIA analyst Ruth Washington is one of the lucky ones. She says she could survive for six months if Congress fails to reach a debt deal and her Social Security payments are cut off.

But she and other senior citizens are not optimistic about the near future — they say their loved ones could suffer, and they are angry at lawmakers on Capitol Hill for allowing politics to endanger their livelihoods.

“I’m fine. I live well, not beyond my means. It just frightens me to think what all those people on Social Security are going to do without money. What’s going to happen if they don’t receive a check?” Washington, 83, told AFP.

“If the government delays my pension, I have about six months that I could survive on my own.”

Washington spends some of her days at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center, a gathering place for retirees in a predominantly black neighborhood in the northwest section of the US capital.

She knits, listens to jazz and talks politics with her friends. These days, the battle of attrition between Democrats and Republicans over a plan to avert a calamitous US debt default is the hottest topic on the agenda.

The world’s top economy has said it will no longer be able to borrow funds to pay its bills on August 2 if a deal is not reached — potentially depriving the 54 million Americans on Social Security of their much-needed payments.

Donald Gaines, an 81-year-old retired US Treasury legal expert, said he too could “survive for quite a while” without his pension payments, but worried about his loved ones.

“I own my house, I own my car, I have comfortable savings,” he said.

But Gaines said his son is in trouble. After banks allowed him to borrow 2.5 times the value of his home, he lost his job, and his house went into foreclosure.

“I’m sure I’m going to have to maintain the position of helping my relatives and my close friends — I couldn’t sit back and watch them,” Gaines said.

The AARP, the country’s main advocacy group for seniors, sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to “address the growing anxiety” among those worried that their benefits will be cut off with little warning.

“Beneficiaries need to know that payments will continue, regardless of the Congressional discussion over an agreement to raise the nation?s debt limit,” the letter said.

“Without Social Security benefits, unprecedented hardship would befall millions of Americans who rely on these earned benefits to pay for life necessities such as food, medications, utilities and shelter.”

Disabled veterans have taken their cause to Facebook, organizing a virtual march on Washington this week to push the government to “honor its moral obligations to those who sacrificed so much in the name of freedom.”

Preston Lee, a 78-year-old former civil servant and accountant, is not alone in voicing frustration at the political deadlock over how to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit and curb the ballooning US budget deficit.

“Most of the people I talk with feel that the politicians are really not doing their job,” Lee said. “Do I trust them? I don’t have the choice but to trust them.”

Washington said she was “angry” and accused Republicans of having ulterior motives.

“I don’t think it’s about the debt ceiling — it’s about Obama. They want him to fail and this is a way of getting him to fail. They could have solved this problem a long time ago,” she said.

Gaines agreed, calling the situation “outrageous and completely unnecessary.”

“It’s strictly politics. The Republicans do not want to see Obama succeed in anything. Their whole program is designed to keep him from going a second term,” he said.

“One sentence and a bill could solve the whole problem, but they go so far as to put the whole country in jeopardy just to keep the president from being re-elected.”

ASPEN, Colorado - Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday that the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Blair said the CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al-Qaida is backfiring by damaging the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The former director of national intelligence suggests giving Pakistan more say in what gets hit by drone strikes and when, despite Pakistan’s record of tipping off militants when it gets advance word of U.S. action.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA, has lauded the drone campaign as a key tool to take out al-Qaida and other militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Strikes, which have more than tripled year-to-year under the Obama administration, are done with tacit Pakistani assent, though publicly, Pakistani officials decry the hits. That tension has grown worse after the U.S. unilateral raid into Pakistan May 2 to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and an earlier incident in January, when a CIA contractor was held for killing two Pakistani men in Lahore that he said were trying to rob him.

Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations. The U.S. had been training forces for that purpose until the program was canceled by Pakistan in retaliation for the bin Laden raid.

Al Qaida “can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said. “I just see us with that strategy walking out on a thinner and thinner ledge and if even we get to the far end of it, we are not going to lower the fundamental threat to the U.S. any lower than we have it now.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Israel stoking a Lebanon-style civil war in Syria for Arabs, Kurds and Turks to slaughter one another....

Israel stoking a Lebanon-style civil war in Syria for Arabs, Kurds and Turks to slaughter one another...., while the Ziocons and Israhell actively prepare an attack on IRAN & Hezbollah.....

By M K Bhadrakumar

After having cautiously lingered in the shade for almost eight months figuring out the meaning and dangers of the Arab Spring, Israel suddenly stirred itself on Tuesday. In an unprecedented move, Israeli President Shimon Peres called in the Arab media for a press conference and made the announcement that Israel backed regime change in Damascus.

Up to this moment, Israel had taken elaborate care not to identify with the Arab Spring. It preferred to concentrate more on the aftermath of the regime changes than on promoting the revolutionaries in the barricades. In the case of Syria, Israel was even suspected to be secretly rooting for the regime of the assassin Bashar Assad, seeing him as standing between Israel and the deluge of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover.

On Tuesday, Peres dispelled the strategic ambiguity at one stroke. "Assad must go. The sooner he will leave, the better it will be for his people," Peres said. The Israeli president hailed the Syrian protesters, declaring, "It is easy [for Syrians] to go out and demonstrate, but when they [Syrian army] shoot you? It is amazing. Their courage and firm stance are honorable."

Peres insisted that regime change in Damascus would be in the interests of Arab-Israeli peace. He exuded confidence that a successor regime in Damascus would conclude a peace treaty with Israel - "Those who seek peace will prevail."

This is a path-breaking performance. Why has Israel chosen to shed its strategic ambiguity over Syria? Israel, after all, knows only too well that a regime change anywhere in the Arab world in today's conditions can only work against its interests. Egypt is a typical case where if and when the interim rulers hand over power to an elected government, it will have to factor in the strong popular wish for a foreign policy that distances the country from the United States and Israel.

A big majority of Egyptians will demand that their government should back off from any form of close cooperation with Israel on economic and security issues. Israel is watching with trepidation the prospect of a thaw in Egypt-Iran ties. Israel's military intelligence chief Major General Aviv Kochavi made a stunning statement recently that Iran was secretly funding Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. In short, Israel cannot afford to be sanguine about the outcome of regime change in Syria.

Peres apparently had other calculations. What emerges is that Israel has made a cold-blooded assessment that regime change in Damascus is not in the cards. Patrick Seal, well-known author and Arabist, summed up last week: "The situation has not reached a critical mass. Damascus hasn't risen, the security services haven't split yet, the economy hasn't collapsed. The regime looks weak and the opposition looks weaker. The more blood is spilt the more difficult it is to find a solution. There has to be a negotiated solution of sorts. If there is no solution there will be a civil war."

Equally, Israel would be disheartened that there is no sign of concerted international action, as happened on Libya. If anything, the bruises and humiliations they are taking from Muammar Gaddafi in the Libyan war would only make the Western powers even more circumspect about the wisdom of opening a Syrian front anytime soon.

The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - along with Lebanon have smothered Western moves to even hold a discussion in the United Nations Security Council over Syria. The recent visit to Damascus by Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby showed that the regional wind is changing in favor of Assad.

Turkey snubs Israel, again
For a while in the most recent period, Israel pinned hopes on the revival of its moribund security ties with Turkey and on mounting a pincer move in the downstream against Syria from the north and the south. Things were indeed looking good in recent weeks for a normalization of Israel-Turkey relations as the diplomats of the two countries worked hard to get over the bitter legacy of the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound aid convoy from Istanbul last year that killed nine Turkish citizens.

However, it now transpires that Ankara doggedly sticks to the insistence of a formal Israeli apology, which is not forthcoming as it is tantamount to indicting the Israeli army. The Turks are now threatening that they will punish Israel.

"The ball is in the Israeli court. If it decides to apologize, then everything is fine. If not, then we will have to resort to Plan B," a senior Turkish official told Agence France-Presse. He added that Turkey was contemplating moves to bring legal action against the Israeli commandos who staged the attack on the aid convoy and could also "further downgrade its diplomatic representation and withhold agreement when Israel wants to name a new envoy to Ankara".

The Turkish Foreign Ministry came out with a statement criticizing the latest Israeli move to create new settlements on Palestinian land.

Earlier, on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while addressing a conference of Palestinian envoys in Istanbul, said in the presence of Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas: "Unless we receive an official apology for the nine Turkish citizens killed, until the families of those victims are compensated and until the blockade of Gaza is lifted, relations between our countries [Turkey and Israel] will not normalize." He threatened to visit Gaza.

Ankara would know these are humiliating demands, which even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might want to ponder over in a spirit of realpolitik or pragmatism, Israeli public opinion won't allow it. It is possible to discern that the Turks may just be deliberately making things very difficult for Israel to patch up the broken ties. The Turks seem to have suddenly lost the ardor for a "normalization" with Israel at the present juncture, which the Americans have been encouraging.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Turkey 10 days ago and made flattering remarks about the country's larger destiny as the leader of the Middle East. The new head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, made Istanbul his first port of call after leaving his command in Afghanistan. It all but seemed Turkey would bite the tantalizing proposition to act as the beachhead for a concerted intervention in Syria.

But, Ankara carefully weighed the advantages of becoming the instigator of regime change in Damascus and seems to have arrived at the conclusion that the dangers to its own territorial integrity far outweigh whatever geopolitical advantages Washington promises. Simply put, it doesn't suit Turkey to be seen holding the Israeli hand right now. Thus, Israeli hopes of breaking out of regional isolation by reinventing an axis with Turkey over Syria are dissipating.

The clincher for Ankara is that the Syrian developments are taking a dangerous turn toward a full-fledged, no-holds-barred, Lebanon-like religious war in the 1980s, which will be a dreadful thing to happen in its backyard.

The sequence of events triggered by the gruesome killing of three families from the Alawi tribe by Salafi extremists in the city of Homs close to the Turkish border testifies to the grave consequences of the danger of derailment of the democracy movement in Syria, which Ankara has been sponsoring in recent months.

A wave of anti-Salafi resentment is sweeping over the region among Shi'ites and Alawis. The backlash is rekindling dormant religious and sectarian passions. Ankara can sense that Salafi extremists, many of them al-Qaeda affiliates and battle-hardened veterans from the Iraq war, have infiltrated the demonstrations.

If a Lebanon-like civil war erupts in Syria, it will be a matter of time before Turkey too catches fire. The Shi'ites and Alawis in Turkey (who form close to 20% of the population) will instinctively get involved in the Syrian maelstrom. Alawi-Salafi tensions are lurking just below the surface in Turkish society.

The Alawi groups in Turkey have formed an umbrella organization known as the Alawi-Bektashi Foundation, which regularly brings out reports to sensitize the world community on the alleged "rights violations targeting Alawis on the basis of inequality and discrimination" and "hate crimes" by Salafi elements associated with the Fetullah Gulen community.

The latest Alawi report titled "The Alawis as Target of the Community" details that the Gulen community of Salafis in Turkey is waging "black propaganda against the Alawis" to the effect that Alawis have "taken over the judiciary and the military; in Turkey there is a sectarian secularism; an Alawi elite is allowed to rule the Sunni masses", et al.

Kurdish backlash
But what Turkey must really guard against is the near-certain Kurdish backlash of which the signs are already appearing. Turkey's support for the Syrian opposition has already brought about some proximity between the Kurds and Damascus.

Pressed against the wall, Damascus can retaliate against Turkish interference by granting Syrian citizenship to the Kurdish settlers in northeastern Syria, especially Qamishli, which will inevitably pose serious headaches for Ankara in the long term.

Clearly, the Kurdish parties are dissociating from the Salafis in northern Syria and are signaling their willingness to work with the Syrian regime. There is some talk that if the situation deteriorates, Damascus may be left with no option but to arm the Kurdish groups to counter the Salafis.

In sum, Ankara needs to be wary that it is skating on thin ice by pushing the Syrian regime to a point of no return. The plain truth is that the Kurds will invariably take an opposing stand to the approach that Ankara adopts. Abudllah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey, lived for many years in exile in Syria.

Turkish interference in Syria has prompted prominent Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani (Iraq's president) and Massoud Barzani (Kurdistan Region president) to voice support for Damascus. (Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has also expressed solidarity with the Syrian regime by signing an agreement for the supply of 150,000 barrels of oil to Syria.)

Again, it was a historic victory of Turkey's "coercive diplomacy" that in 1998, Ankara amassed troops on the Syrian border threatening to invade and succeeded in literally brow-beating Damascus into agreeing to "demilitarize" the border regions with Turkey - and to expel Ocalan.

Now, against the backdrop of Turkish interference in the current situation, Damascus has dispatched its special forces to the Turkish border region after a gap of 13 years.

On top of this, Damascus chose to dispatch to the border the Fifteenth Division of its army, which is predominantly manned by Sunnis and is under the command of Sunni Syrian officers - rubbishing Ankara's facile assumption that the Syrian army's Sunni officers are about to desert the regime.

On the whole, Israel has rightly assessed that the Turks are beginning to get the Syrian message and are preparing to pipe down.

Ankara is winding down anti-Syria rhetoric and is gradually reviving its old platform of "zero problems" with its tough neighbors.

The irony is that Ankara is also compelled to revive the bonhomie with Iran and launch a concerted military offensive against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq following the killing of 13 Turkish troops on July 14 in Diyarbakir province in eastern Turkey.

In a masterly move with impeccable timing, the Iranian army began operations on July 16 against Kurdish rebels in the Kandil mountains in northern Iraq. In a parallel move, the Turkish military also since began an operation in the Iraqi territory bordering Hakkari province in eastern Turkey.

Ankara is putting on a brave face and claiming that the Iranian and Turkish operations are not coordinated. That may be so in a formal sense. Tehran is not disputing the Turkish claim, either. But the Israelis are a smart lot and can sense perfectly well what is going on - that someone is jogging Turkey's memory that it still has an unfinished Kurdish problem of its own to prioritize, where it has a commonality of interests with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Evidently, Israel has concluded that the Syrian-Iranian axis is very much intact despite the immense pressure from Saudi Arabia on Assad to break up with Tehran; the Syrian regime is nowhere near collapse despite the concerted pressure by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France and the US; and, Qatar, which among all Persian Gulf Arab states is always quickest on the uptake, anticipates that an Arab Spring in Syria is going to be a tough call, far tougher than Libya, and Doha shouldn't aspire to punch so absurdly far above its light weight.

Incidentally, Qatar has shut down its embassy in Damascus and pulled out following the attacks on the American and French embassies and the al-Jazeera office in the Syrian capital. Most important, Israel estimates that Turkey has begun gradually backtracking from the path of interference in Syria.

All in all, the specter that haunts Israel is that if the turmoil in Syria abates, the attention of the international community will inevitably revert to the Palestine issue. Abbas is reiterating his intention to seek UN recognition for Palestine at the forthcoming general assembly session in New York in September.

Peres' stirring call is a clever attempt to stoke the fires in Syria. There would be nothing like it if a Lebanon-like civil war erupted in the golden triangle and Arabs, Kurds and Turks slaughtered one another.

At no point since the Arab Spring appeared on the Maghreb last December and took away the life of a street vendor in Tunis, could one have foreseen that the day would arrive when Israel became its standard-bearer in the Levant. The Middle East never ceases to throw up surprises.

India-Pakistan; a breath of Fresh Air....

India-Pakistan; a breath of Fresh Air....

Ms.HinaRabbaniKhar, the young andseemingly forward-looking Foreign Minister of Pakistan, brought in a breath of fresh air during her short visit to New Delhi on July 26-27,2011, for talks with her Indian counterpart Mr.S.M.Krishna to review the progress in the dialogue process covering various issues since the last meeting of Shri Krishna with her predecessor, Mr.ShahMehmoodQureshi at Islamabad in July last year.

2. What a near diplomatic disaster the previous meeting between Shri Krishna and Mr.Qureshi was due to the totally negative and undiplomatic attitude of Mr.Qureshi who used the joint press conference at the end of the talks and another interaction with the media subsequently to talk disparagingly of the Indian Foreign Minister and in unduly critical terms on India’s attitude to the dialogue process--- particularly on the Kashmir issue!

3. The set-back that the dialogue process suffered due to the attitude of Mr.Qureshi has since been set right as a result of the positive outcome of the subsequent meetings between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries at Thimpu in Bhutan in February,2011, in the margins of a SAARC meeting and between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and YousefRazaGilani at Mohali in Indian Punjab in the margins of the World Cup cricket Semi-final between India and Pakistan in the last week of March and the more businesslike attitude adopted by the senior bureaucrats of the two countries from the Interior/Home Ministries, the Foreign Offices and other concerned Ministries involved in the dialogue process during the interactions that followed the departure of Mr.Qureshi from the Pakistani Foreign Office in February last.

4.Ms.Khar,a hand-picked choice of President Asif Ali Zardari initially as the Minister of State for External Affairs and subsequently elevated as the Foreign Minister on the eve of her visit to India, is a Multani ( a Seraiki) like Prime Minister Gilani. She has sought to bring in a new mindset and impart a new stamp to the way Pakistan handles the dialogue process---- reducing the atmosphere of contention which has been the bane of the dialogue process and injecting an element of decency in the way the Pakistani interlocutors interact with their Indian counterparts.

5. The various issues bedeviling the bilateral relations---Jammu & Kashmir, cross-border terrorism, Siachen, bilateral trade, water-related differences--- remain stuck up where they were stuck up when she took over the responsibility for the conduct of Pakistan’s diplomacy, but she has sought to change the ambiance of the bilateral interactions by introducing an element of decency in discourse that was markedly absent under her predecessor.

6. Her visit has given rise to hopes for a change in the mind-set as a result of a new generation of policy-makers coming to the fore in the Pakistani Foreign Office under her youthful leadership and guidance. Whether she ultimately succeeds in changing the mind-set or not would depend on the attitude of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which must be watching her moves.Her elevation as the full-fledged Foreign Minister and her being put in charge of the dialogue process with India was a carefully-calculated, but subtle attempt by Mr.Zardari to regain civilian autonomy in policy-making towards India.

7. Whether he succeeds or not would depend on how well Ms Khar conducts her diplomacy----by keeping up the slow but steady forward momentum in the relations with India without creating undue alarm in the General Headquarters. There is a need for a new mind-set not only in the Pakistani Foreign Office, but also in its Army and the ISI. Changing the mind-set of the Army and the ISI is not in the hands of a youthful Minister like Ms.Khar who is taking her first steps in the tricky world of Indo-Pak diplomacy. The Army has to realize the need for a change in its mind-set towards India.

8.Normally, one would have been highly skeptic about the possibility of a change of mind-set in the Army and the ISI. But the Army and the ISI are highly chastened as a result of their humiliating experience at the hands of the US since the beginning of this year. There has been an introspection going on in Pakistan at various levels on the wisdom of continuing its past policies of over-dependence on the US and unnecessary confrontation with India. If this introspection leads to a realization in the Army of the need for a change in the mind-set towards India, one can hope to see the breath of fresh air introduced by Ms.Khar gain strength and speed.

9. This article may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 9,2011, titled INDIA-PAKISTAN: LEARNING TO LIKE EACH OTHER at ك

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Obama creating a showdown atmosphere with Beijing in Taiwan Straits and the South China Seas....

Obama creating a showdown atmosphere with Beijing in Taiwan Straits and the South China Seas....

July , 2011 -- CIA penetrating China's "soft under-belly"....

China has warned the U.S. that it will not tolerate continued spy flights of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft near its airspace. The Obama administration has countered that spy flights, like the U-2 flight recently intercepted by Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters in the Straits of Taiwan, will continue.

The Obama administration appears intent on ratcheting up tensions with China. With Indian government acquiescence. Washington recently hosted a conference of leading Tibetan religious and political figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India. President Obama angered the Chinese further by meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also adopted a confrontational approach with China concerning competing claims by China and Southeast Asian nations over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The CIA has been authorized by the Obama White House to increase its penetration of tribal groups in Southeast Asia, along the Chinese southern border, in what could be described as China's "soft under-belly." Increased U.S. military cooperation with Vietnam also poses a threat to China's southern border with the CIA seeking intelligence-gathering facilities in northern Vietnam, near the Chinese border. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has similar facilities in Mongolia, near the northern border of China.

Our Southeast Asian sources have reported that the CIA is increasing its influence operations among various tribal groups in northern Thailand and Burma that have historical ties to their fellow tribal members across the border in China's southern provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan.

The CIA, mostly through financial aid funneled through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing support, including that which has been described by those on the ground in northern Thailand, as "military" in nature, to various tribal groups, including the Akha, Tai Lue, N'tin, Hmong, and Khamu tribes in Nan province along the Thai border with Laos, as well as Doi Wawi Chinese, Karen, Lahu, Yao, Hmong, in the Wawi Valley District and
Burmese Kachin and Karen tribal members who are refugees living in camps close to the border with Burma. The CIA influence operations in around the Golden Triangle border intersection of Burma, Thailand, and Laos, according to our sources, are being carried out through the aegis of Baptist missionaries in northern Thailand and in the Mekong River region. At least one Baptist missionary active with tribes in northern Burma, was identified as CIA by the Burmese government and expelled.

USAID funds are being funneled to non-governmental organization (NGO) entities in northern Thailand, including the Mekong Minority Foundation, which receives USAID funding, according to our sources, from the Christian Tearfund charitable group, which is also active in east Africa, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and Sudan. USAID funds are also being pumped into tribal groups in China's Yunnan province through Bless China International (BCI).

The CIA has had an off-and-on relationship with two professions that have been historically exempted from intelligence activities: missionaries and journalists. However, since the monstrous inside Job of 9/11, the CIA has renewed its use of both professions to carry out its covert activities, an activity that places bona fide missionaries and journalists in jeopardy abroad.

The Obama administration has adopted a much more hostile military and intelligence posture toward China than existed with the previous Bush administration....

US in 'denial' over China's Pacific strategy....?
By Craig Guthrie

HUA HIN, Thailand - Reports that China is close to achieving the same spy satellite capabilities as the United States and making advances in its drone and missile technologies are feeding into US theories that Beijing is pursuing a multi-faceted strategy to reshape the dynamics of military power in Asia.

However, the Pentagon seems too enamored with the doctrine of "access denial", the belief that China is intent on blocking US access to the region to gain the upper hand in an asymmetrical conflict, that it is failing to take the evolution in Chinese military thinking into account.

In July, reports surfaced that advances in China's spy orbiter program in the past 18 months enable it to spy on the same moving target - such as a US aircraft carrier - for up to six hours a day. In the same month, China launched an advanced new communications drone and there were revelations over its anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) program.

"China is clearly pursuing a policy of 'access denial' toward pushing the US away from the western Pacific," Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of the National Security Decision Making Department at the US Naval War College, told Asia Times Online. "As part of that, they need to be able to 'see' what's going on, and the improvements in their eye-in-the-sky capabilities will allow them to better do that."

The focus on China's satellite-based reconnaissance and real-time operations resulted from partial publication of an analysis by the World Security Institute, due out in full in October. The Washington think-tank concluded that the ability of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to monitor moving targets from space has been revolutionized in the past decade.

"Starting from almost no live surveillance capability 10 years ago, today the PLA has likely equaled the US's ability to observe targets from space for some real-time operations," two of the institute's China researchers, Eric Hagt and Matthew Durnin, wrote in the analysis, as seen and reported by Reuters.

"The most immediate and strategically disquieting application is a targeting and tracking capability in support of the anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hit US carrier groups ... With space as the backbone, China will be able to expand the range of its ability to apply force while preserving its policy of not establishing foreign military bases," Reuters reported.

The impetus for the advances in monitoring systems likely derived from major embarrassments for the PLA, such as the US deployments of two carriers, the USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk, to Taiwan in 1996. That affront to Chinese sovereignty is seen as a turning point in post-Cold War US-China relations and in the formation of the East Asian regional order.

The access denial theory envisions the PLA acting quickly in similar scenario to neutralize US infrastructure in the region in the event of a conflict, to prevent deployment of vastly superior US follow-on forces. By striking hard, Beijing could convince the US and its allies that the cost of entry in blood and treasure would be prohibitive, despite the gaping disparities in firepower and strength between the US and Chinese militaries.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also referred to access denial in July, ahead of a meeting with General Chen Bingde, chief of the PLA's General Staff.

"There are some significant advancements that China has made technologically over the course of the last decade ... And those do focus on anti-access or area-denial - they are focused and have that capability," Mullen said in Beijing.

Surveillance of moving targets such as carriers is an aspect of the access denial strategy as identified in a 2007 report "Entering the Dragon's Lair", which was prepared by the Rand Corporation for the US Air Force. It said the PLA would increasingly focus on restricting or disrupting the US military's ability to operate within a theater far from US territory.

"Attacks on aircraft carriers ... could prevent naval aviation from operating within the theater or force the carriers to withdraw to more-distant locations from which their aircraft would be less effective," according to the report. It also pointed to a "political anti-access" strategy, whereby Beijing would apply diplomatic pressure to foster disputes between host-nations of Pacific bases and the US.

While media reports have focused on China's eyes in the sky, its new stealth fighter, aircraft carrier and reconnaissance drones are key links in the anti-access strategy for relaying on-the-ground communications, while anti-ship ballistic missile systems are critical for strike options.

In July, the PLA deployed the Silver Eagle, a twin-tailed drone. According to an account of its test flight found on a PLA-sponsored website, as reported by Flight International, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made a three-hour flight, with a ground operator controlling the drone with a mouse and keyboard. When the UAV reached the combat zone, it maintained a cruising speed of 72kt (134 km/h) and an altitude of 9,840 ft (3,000 meters). [1]

"During its mission it disrupted communications, while also acting as a node for a Chinese military communications network, relaying 'large numbers of information packets' among Chinese forces. When an 'enemy' aircraft approached, the ground control station initiated a 'counter-surveillance deployment plan', and by reducing its altitude and initiating radio silence the Silver Eagle evaded detection," Flight International reported.

In a rare example of Chinese military transparency, General Chen confirmed this month that the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship missile, known as a "carrier killer" was in development. His comments came as the English-language China Daily reported that the DF-21D had a range of 2,700 km, far beyond US assessments by the Office of Naval Intelligence last year, which put the range at around 1,500 km.

"The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and it will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one," Chen told reporters.

Taken together, the recent satellite, drone and missile advances are critical in China's Pacific access denial strategy, says Gabe Collins, co-founder of China
China's work on overhead ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] assets is very important, as they will help the PLA with over-the-horizon targeting and weapons guidance. Our work to date has focused most specifically on the DF-21D that recently reached initial operational capability. In our December 2010 report on ASBM development, we note China's rapid buildup of a reconnaissance satellite constellation, with at least 12 Yaogan advanced electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) remote sensing satellites launched in the last 4 years.
Though the network China is constructing fits well with the strategies identified in "Entering the Dragon's Lair", Hagt of the World Security Institute told Asia Times Online that there were several problems with the US focus on access denial, particularly in how a theory devised by Western policymakers is "parsed" onto Chinese military thinking.

"Remember that A2/AD [anti-access/area denial] is not a Chinese term, nor was it first borrowed by the Chinese to describe their own strategy in the western Pacific. If one looks at the specifics of what the strategy really means in the Western context, there are a number of problems," said Hagt.

"The Chinese formulation for their naval modernization is 'active defense', admittedly an even more amorphous term. I think where the Chinese foremost resistance to the [A2/AD] term would be in the concept's inherent purpose to possess the means and intent to keep the US (or other power) out of a pre-defined area using some form of forward deployed surface, submarine vessels, missiles or even bases. Rather, they would describe an A2/AD like strategy as one in reaction to specific threats and triggers, for instance interference over Taiwan.

"What exactly would trigger the A2/AD strategy is unclear. Only interference in Taiwan? Or would some dispute in the South China Sea be sufficient? If it is just over Taiwan, what exactly would the response be? Who would the deterrent be aimed at exactly? If the US sailed in with carriers aided by Japanese Aegis destroyers, or let's say just satellite comlink support, would the deterrent be exercised over Japan and any others that may operate alongside US forces? This is the difficulty over A2/AD and to which nuclear weapons (a simple deterrent) are not subject to," he said.

Moreover, Hagt said reporting on his article for the World Security Institute missed several significant caveats that he and his colleagues mentioned in terms of a comparison between US and Chinese capabilities in reconnaissance satellites:
We point out that while China's potential to view a stationary target in the Western Pacific are nearing US capabilities, they still lack in cueing assets (for example ELINT, Electronic signals intelligence or intelligence-gathering by use of electronic sensors ) ... this is say nothing of the gap when talking about greater battlefield awareness on a global scale.

Our point was not that China is catching up in overall battlefield awareness, much less on a global scale, but given that China is mainly interested in a well-defined and somewhat limited space (western Pacific), its potential ability to view objects has greatly increased over the past few years.
While the Western media may be exaggerating China's technological advances, a second look at how Chinese military strategy is evolving offers further counterpoints to the access denial theory. Rather than preparing for a counterstrike, it is more likely that the PLA is sticking to its "active defense" strategy and building on "space deterrence".

The PLA can achieve this by building up a formidable reconnaissance and strike capability while adopting a new tack of using political victories and psychological warfare to chip away at the US's standing in Asia. Active Defense is said to feature "defensive operations, self-defense and striking and getting the better of the enemy only after the enemy has started an attack".

In a February report delivered to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Asian Studies Center, said PLA strategy had evolved based on careful observation of Western war approaches to identify "three warfares": psychological warfare, public opinion warfare, and legal warfare, with the first proving the most important for space operations.

"Psychological warfare at that level is aimed not only at an opponent's political and military leaders, but also at their broader population ... PLA descriptions of how space deterrence can be effected are consistent with this definition of psychological warfare. For example, Chinese analysts note that space systems are very expensive. It is possible, then, to hold an opponent's space infrastructure hostage by posing a question of cost-benefit analysis: is the focus of deterrence (eg, Taiwan) worth the likely cost of repairing or replacing a badly damaged or even destroyed space infrastructure?"

While Cheng says "three warfares" fits with the Pentagon's "access denial" doctrine, "space deterrence" and the political techniques available to undermine US prestige in space are likely to play an increasingly important role as Beijing projects itself as the ascendant power in the Pacific.

As Chinese military expert Bao Shixiu wrote in "Deterrence Revisited, Outer Space", a report published in 2007, "The basic necessity to preserve stability through the development of deterrent forces as propounded by Mao [Zedong] and Deng [Xiaoping] remains valid in the context of space."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Saudi beacon for Iraq's Sunni militias; is Saudi Arabia courting disaster?

A Saudi beacon for Iraq's Sunni militias; is Saudi Arabia courting disaster?
By Brian M Downing

Iraq is less violent and more stable than it was at the height of the insurgency, but it is still plagued by bombings and sectarian tensions. In recent weeks, Shi'ite militias have been attacking United States troops - perhaps on the direction of Iran, perhaps simply to take claim for their departure scheduled for the end of this year.

Sunni forces have been at work as well, targeting Shi'ite marketplaces and security personnel. Sunni militancy is no longer the diffuse anti-US insurgency it was after the fall of Baghdad, nor is it held in check any longer by benefits that the US surge once bestowed upon it.

Over the past year or two, the Sunni resistance has demonstrated considerable discipline and control in attacking Shi'ite targets
and, most remarkably and puzzlingly, in not attacking US personnel. For an answer to this puzzle one might look next door to Saudi Arabia.

The Sunni insurgency, 2003-2007
In the four years between the fall of Baghdad and the success of the surge, various groups fought the Western forces. The Shi'ite militias were led by a handful of indigenous leaders and supported by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Leadership in the Sunni movement, however, was less concentrated. It was based on a confused array of former army officers, tribal chieftains, Ba'ath party figures, religious authorities, local power holders, and al-Qaeda lieutenants.

The rank and file came from former soldiers angered by the US's demobilization of the army, Salafist faithful who opposed the Western presence, foreign fighters from across the Middle East, and tribal youth seeking pay and adventure when elders lost the revenue and patronage system that Saddam Hussein had given them. All found a cause and steady pay.

Most fighters were undisciplined, and the insurgency showed it. Attacks demonstrated little knowledge of small-unit tactics and US troops often described Sunni fighters as no more than armed gangs. Coordination among rival Sunni groups was limited to sharing bomb-making skills and some supplies, though some tactical coordination emerged.

The Sunni insurgency was funded by Ba'ath party caches secreted about the country, wealthy contractors who had benefited from the old regime, and foreign sources in the Sunni Arab world. The money of the Ba'ath party and the contractors are thought to be long gone.

The Sunni opposition today...

Most of the conditions that brought the old insurgency are still in existence. The Sunnis endure loss of privilege and status as the regimes they dominated since the 1920s are gone. Salafism remains strong and indeed it has strengthened as Sunnis turn to austere religion to explain their defeats and offer answers.

Perhaps most significantly, young men from the tribes have lost the jobs that Saddam's state and later the US surge had given them. The Shi'ite state ended these support systems and many young men are once again available - or they are supported through clandestine revenues from abroad.

Yet Sunni militants today operate in a far more controlled manner than in the past. They bomb Shi'ite markets and security forces, but refrain from the violent firefights and ambushes. The rivalries that divided various insurgent groups five years ago and led to rash competition for popular support are no longer in evidence. Whereas foreign fighters once fought openly with locals, they cooperate today.

There are few if any boastful manifestos or propaganda videos from sundry leaders. The days of former colonels, neighborhood toughs, and foreign jihadis issuing proclamation after proclamation are gone. There is sufficient structure to prevent Sunni groups from attacking US troops.

This discipline and restraint cannot be rightly attributed to Iraqi political leadership. Sunni leaders are largely excluded from power. They are hounded, jailed, or even killed by Shi'ite security forces. Tribal elders no longer have the state or US revenue to keep their young men in line.

Why are al-Qaeda forces refraining from attacking US troops? They are not known for restraint. They despise the US intensely and generally follow the strategy of tying US forces down across the world so as to ruin the US financially - a goal that might seem less than far-fetched just now. Perhaps al-Qaeda in Iraq has come to an understanding with a foreign power reluctant to be tied to killing US soldiers.

Saudi influence
All roads in the Gulf region lead to Riyadh. With the rising Shi'ite fortunes of late, Saudi Arabia is repaving and expanding those roads, especially the financial and intelligence ones running into Iraq's Sunni triangle. The Saudis are enlisting co-religionists - former soldiers, Salafists, and tribal elders of the old insurgency - to serve in their sacred cause of containing Shi'ism and Iran.

Saudi involvement in Iraq is deep and longstanding, dating back at least to supporting Saddam's war with Iran (1980-1988). Later, at the height of the insurgency, US intelligence detected money coming in from Sunni states in the region, though it wasn't clear if the money came from governments or prosperous individuals.

The Saudi government played an important role in easing the insurgency and sectarian violence that threatened to spread into other countries and expand Iranian power. Saudi diplomacy and money pressed the Dulayim tribes, a highly militarized confederation that straddles the Iraqi-Saudi border and predominates in Anbar province - the center of the insurgency. Saudi efforts, largely overshadowed by parallel US ones, greatly reduced the fighting.

The Sunnis of Iraq now play an important role in Riyadh's policy of containing Iran - a policy given more urgency by the perception - almost certainly erroneous - that Tehran has been encouraging uprisings by disaffected Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the Gulf.

The Saudis support the Kurds of northwestern Iran, the Arabs of Khuzestan in western Iran, and the Balochi in the southeast. Saudi Arabia is encouraging opposition among other non-Persian tribes with long histories of opposing Tehran whether a shah or mullah is in power. In Afghanistan, the Saudis are also enlisting Pashtun tribes to counter Iranian influence in the north and west. Iraq is but one front.

The Sunni campaign may seek to establish an autonomous region in Iraq for the increasingly marginalized Sunni Arabs. Perhaps a fully separate state is in mind, one that will serve as a buffer between Shi'ite states and Sunni ones. Such a country could rely on financial support from Sunni petro-states for quite some time, though Anbar province is thought to hold impressive hydrocarbon resources.

Al-CIAda in Iraq?
The position of al-Qaeda in all this is puzzling. The dogged enemy of both the United States and Saudi Arabia is thought to be operating in substantial numbers in Iraq, yet it refrains from attacking the former and accepts the latter. Clearly, this is a different al-Qaeda than the one the world has come to know over the last ten years - so much so that it might be better seen as a different entity altogether.

The implication is that Saudi Arabia and the foreign fighters inside Iraq have established common ground and that these foreign fighters have been diverted from an anti-Western cause to an anti-Shi'ite one - at least temporarily, one must add. This might initially seem good news to many in the West, but it augurs poorly for stability in the Gulf as it implies protracted and well-funded irregular warfare in Iraq and with Iran.

The mechanics of such an arrangement are not hard to define. Saudi security forces have for years maintained ties with fellow countrymen who served in the ranks of the anti-Soviet mujaheddin. Some of them joined or knew members in Osama bin Laden's veteran league, which of course became al-CIAda. Wahhabi clerics, through their interrelated preaching and recruiting, have been important parts of jihadi networks since the Afghan war emerged in 1980.

Further, Saudi security forces were able to infiltrate and defeat al-Qaeda-Arabian Peninsula when it turned on the House of Saud following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Many of those fighters were captured or turned themselves in and have since provided useful intelligence.

If indeed the Saudis have converted a guerrilla force inside Iraq into a partner against Shi'ite power, they would do well to remain on guard. Working with zealous fighters has proven problematic over the years as the Arab mujaheddin have turned against Pashtun mujaheddin, the United States, the Afghan north, and now increasingly Pakistan. And of course they have in the past turned against the House of the ZIOCONNED Wahhabi filth of al-Saud as well......

Monday, July 25, 2011

USA global Manhunters, Inc., better yet, The most infamous White House Murder INC,....

  • The US military is fast becoming Manhunting, Inc, expanding its use of highly secretive “capture/kill” teams. Task Force 373 in Afghanistan is one such special operations forces assassination unit....and in the Levant it's the odious White House Murder INC, with Asef Shawkat and his goons since January 24th 2002...

Find, fix, finish, and follow-up” is the way the Pentagon describes the mission of secret military teams in Afghanistan which have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda wherever they may be found. Some call these “manhunting” operations and the units assigned to them “capture/kill” teams.

Whatever terminology you choose, the details of dozens of their specific operations — and how they regularly went badly wrong — have been revealed for the first time in the mass of secret US military and intelligence documents published by the website Wikileaks/CIA in July to a storm of news coverage and official protest. Representing a form of US covert warfare now on the rise, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by US reconstruction projects.

When Danny Hall and Gordon Phillips, the civilian and military directors of the US provincial reconstruction team in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, arrived for a meeting with Gul Agha Sherzai, the local governor, in mid-June 2007, they knew that they had a lot of apologizing to do. Philips had to explain why a covert US military “capture/kill” team named Task Force 373, hunting for Qari Ur-Rahman, an alleged Taliban commander given the code-name “Carbon,” had called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship and inadvertently killed seven Afghan police officers in the middle of the night.

The incident vividly demonstrated the inherent clash between two doctrines in the US war in Afghanistan — counterinsurgency (“protecting the people”) and counterterrorism (killing terrorists). Although the Obama administration has given lip service to the former, the latter has been, and continues to be, the driving force in its war in Afghanistan.

For Hall, a Foreign Service officer who was less than two months away from a plush assignment in London, working with the military had already proven more difficult than he expected. In an article for Foreign Service Journal published a couple of months before the meeting, he wrote, “I felt like I never really knew what was going on, where I was supposed to be, what my role was, or if I even had one. In particular, I didn’t speak either language that I needed: Pashtu or military.”

It had been no less awkward for Phillips. Just a month earlier, he had personally handed over “solatia” payments — condolence payments for civilian deaths wrongfully caused by US forces — in Governor Sherzai’s presence, while condemning the act of a Taliban suicide bomber who had killed 19 civilians, setting off the incident in question. “We come here as your guests,” he told the relatives of those killed, “invited to aid in the reconstruction and improved security and governance of Nangarhar, to bring you a better life and a brighter future for you and your children. Today, as I look upon the victims and their families, I join you in mourning for your loved ones.”

Hall and Phillips were in charge of a portfolio of 33 active US reconstruction projects worth $11 million in Nangarhar, focused on road-building, school supplies, and an agricultural program aimed at exporting fruits and vegetables from the province.

Yet the mission of their military-led “provincial reconstruction team” (made up of civilian experts, State department officials, and soldiers) appeared to be in direct conflict with those of the “capture/kill” team of special operations forces (Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Green Berets, together with operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division) whose mandate was to pursue Afghans alleged to be terrorists as well as insurgent leaders. That team was leaving a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in its wake.

Details of some of the missions of Task Force 373 first became public as a result of more than 76,000 incident reports leaked to the public by Wikileaks, a whistleblower website, together with analyses of those documents in Der Spiegel, the Guardian, and the New York Times. A full accounting of the depredations of the task force may be some time in coming, however, as the Obama administration refuses to comment on its ongoing assassination spree in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A short history of the unit can nonetheless be gleaned from a careful reading of the Wikileaks documents as well as related reports from Afghanistan and unclassified Special Forces reports.

The Wikileaks data suggests that as many as 2,058 people on a secret hit list called the “Joint Prioritized Effects List” (JPEL) were considered “capture/kill” targets in Afghanistan. A total of 757 prisoners — most likely from this list — were being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF), a US-run prison on Bagram Air Base as of the end of December 2009.

The idea of “joint” teams from different branches of the military working collaboratively with the CIA was first conceived in 1980 after the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, when personnel from the Air Force, Army, and Navy engaged in a disastrously botched, seat-of-the-pants attempt to rescue US hostages in Iran with help from the Agency. Eight soldiers were killed when a helicopter crashed into a C-130 aircraft in the Iranian desert. Afterwards, a high-level, six-member commission led by Admiral James L. Holloway, III recommended the creation of a Joint Special Forces command to ensure that different branches of the military and the CIA should do far more advance coordination planning in the future.

This process accelerated greatly after September 11, 2001. That month, a CIA team called Jawbreaker headed for Afghanistan to plan a US-led invasion of the country. Shortly thereafter, an Army Green Beret team set up Task Force Dagger to pursue the same mission. Despite an initial rivalry between the commanders of the two groups, they eventually teamed up.

The first covert “joint” team involving the CIA and various military special operations forces to work together in Afghanistan was Task Force 5, charged with the mission of capturing or killing “high value targets” like Osama bin Laden, senior leaders of al-Qaeda, and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban. A sister organization set up in Iraq was called Task Force 20. The two were eventually combined into Task Force 121 by General John Abizaid, the head of the US Central Command.

In a new book to be released this month, Operation Darkheart, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer describes the work of Task Force 121 in 2003, when he was serving as part of a team dubbed the Jedi Knights. Working under the alias of Major Christopher Stryker, he ran operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency (the military equivalent of the CIA) out of Bagram Air Base.

One October night, Shaffer was dropped into a village near Asadabad in Kunar province by an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to lead a “joint” team, including Army Rangers (a Special Forces division) and 10th Mountain Division troops. They were on a mission to capture a lieutenant of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord allied with the Taliban, based on information provided by the CIA.

It wasn’t easy. “They succeeded in striking at the core of the Taliban and their safe havens across the border in Pakistan. For a moment Shaffer saw us winning the war,” reads the promotional material for the book. “Then the military brass got involved. The policies that top officials relied on were hopelessly flawed. Shaffer and his team were forced to sit and watch as the insurgency grew — just across the border in Pakistan.”

Almost a quarter century after Operation Eagle Claw, Shaffer, who was part of the Able Danger team that had pursued Al Qaeda in the 1990s, describes the bitter turf wars between the CIA and Special Forces teams over how the shadowy world of secret assassinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan should be run.

Fast forward to 2007, the first time Task Force 373 is mentioned in the Wikileaks documents. We don’t know whether its number means anything, but coincidentally or not, chapter 373 of the US Code 10, the act of Congress that sets out what the US military is legally allowed to do, permits the Secretary of Defense to empower any “civilian employee” of the military “to execute warrants and make arrests without a warrant” in criminal matters. Whether or not this is indeed the basis for that “373″ remains a classified matter — as indeed, until the Wikileaks document dump occurred, was the very existence of the group.

Analysts say that Task Force 373 complements Task Force 121 by using “white forces” like the Rangers and the Green Berets, as opposed to the more secretive Delta Force. Task Force 373 is supposedly run out of three military bases — in Kabul, the Afghan capital; Kandahar, the country’s second largest city; and Khost City near the Pakistani tribal lands. It’s possible that some of its operations also come out of Camp Marmal, a German base in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Sources familiar with the program say that the task force has its own helicopters and aircraft, notably AC-130 Spectre gunships, dedicated only to its use.

Its commander appears to have been Brigadier General Raymond Palumbo, based out of the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Palumbo, however,left Fort Bragg in mid-July, shortly after General Stanley McChrystal was relieved as Afghan war commander by President Obama. The name of the new commander of the task force is not known.

In more than 100 incident reports in the Wikileaks files, Task Force 373 is described as leading numerous “capture/kill” efforts, notably in Khost, Paktika, and Nangarhar provinces, all bordering the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of northern Pakistan. Some reportedly resulted in successful captures, while others led to the death of local police officers or even small children, causing angry villagers to protest and attack US-led military forces.

In April 2007, David Adams, commander of the Khost provincial reconstruction team, was called to meet with elders from the village of Gurbuz in Khost province, who were angry about Task Force 373′s operations in their community. The incident report on Wikileaks does not indicate just what Task Force 373 did to upset Gurbuz’s elders, but the governor of Khost, Arsala Jamal, had been publicly complaining about Special Forces operations and civilian deaths in his province since December 2006, when five civilians were killed in a raid on Darnami village.

“This is our land,” he said then. “I’ve been asking with greater force: Let us sit together, we know our Afghan brothers, we know our culture better. With these operations we should not create more enemies. We are in a position to reduce mistakes.”

As Adams would later recall in an op-ed he co-authored for the Wall Street Journal, “The increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost’s tribal elders.”

On June 12, 2007, Danny Hall and Gordon Philips, working in Nangarhar province just northeast of Khost, were called into that meeting with Governor Sherzai to explain how Task Force 373 had killed those seven local Afghan police officers. Like Jamal, Sherzai made the point to Hall and Philips that “he strongly encourages better coordination… and he further emphasized that he does not want to see this happen again.”

Less than a week later, a Task Force 373 team fired five rockets at a compound in Nangar Khel in Paktika province to the south of Khost, in an attempt to kill Abu Laith al-Libi, an alleged al-Qaeda member from Libya. When the US forces made it to the village, they found that Task Force 373 had destroyed a madrassa (or Islamic school), killing six children and grievously wounding a seventh who, despite the efforts of a US medical team, would soon die. (In late January 2008, al-Libi was reported killed by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone strike in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan in Pakistan.)

Paktika Governor Akram Khapalwak met with the US military the day after the raid. Unlike his counterparts in Khost and Nangarhar, Khapalwak agreed to support the “talking points” developed for Task Force 373 to explain the incident to the media. According to the Wikileaks incident report, the governor then “echoed the tragedy of children being killed, but stressed this could’ve been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”

However, no military talking points, no matter in whose mouth, could stop the civilian deaths as long as Task Force 373’s raids continued.

On October 4, 2007, its members called in an air strike — 500 pound Paveway bombs — on a house in the village of Laswanday, just six miles from Nangar Khel in Paktika province (where those seven children had already died). This time, four men, one woman, and a girl — all civilians — as well as a donkey, a dog, and several chickens would be slaughtered. A dozen US soldiers were injured, but the soldiers reported that not one “enemy” was detained or killed.

Not all raids resulted in civilian deaths. The US military incident reports released by Wikileaks suggest that Task Force 373 had better luck in capturing “targets” alive and avoiding civilian deaths on December 14, 2007. The 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was asked that day to support Task Force 373 in a search in Paktika province for Bitonai and Nadr, two alleged al-Qaeda leaders listed on the JPEL. The operation took place just outside the town of Orgun, close to US Forward Operating Base (FOB) Harriman. Located 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains, it hosts about 300 soldiers as well as a small CIA compound, and is often visited by chattering military helicopters as well as sleepy camel herds belonging to local Pashtuns.

An airborne assault team code-named “Operation Spartan” descended on the compounds where Bitonai and Nadr were supposed to be living, but failed to find them. When a local Afghan informant told the Special Forces soldiers that the suspects were at a location about two miles away, Task Force 373 seized both men as well as 33 others who were detained at FOB Harriman for questioning and possible transfer to the prison at Bagram.

But when Task Force 373 was on the prowl, civilians were, it seems, always at risk, and while the Wikileaks documents reveal what the U.S soldiers were willing to report, the Afghan side of the story was often left in a ditch. For example, on a Monday night in mid-November 2009, Task Force 373 conducted an operation to capture or kill an alleged militant code-named “Ballentine” in Ghazni province. A terse incident report announced that one Afghan woman and four “insurgents” had been killed. The next morning, Task Force White Eagle, a Polish unit under the command of the US 82nd Airborne Division, reported that some 80 people gathered to protest the killings. The window of an armored vehicle was damaged by the angry villagers, but the documents don’t offer us their version of the incident.

In an ironic twist, one of the last Task Force 373 incidents recorded in the Wikileaks documents was almost a reprise of the original Operation Eagle Claw disaster that led to the creation of the “joint” capture/kill teams. Just before sunrise on October 26, 2009, two US helicopters, a UH-1 Huey and an AH-1 Cobra, collided near the town of Garmsir in the southern province of Helmand, killing four Marines.

Closely allied with Task Force 373 is a British unit, Task Force 42, composed of Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment commandos who operate in Helmand province and are mentioned in several Wikileaks incident reports.

Capture/kill” is a key part of a new military “doctrine” developed by the Special Forces Command established after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw. Under the leadership of General Bryan D. Brown, who took over the Special Forces Command in September 2003, the doctrine came to be known as F4, which stood for“find, fix, finish, and follow-up” — a slightly euphemistic but not hard to understand message about how alleged terrorists and insurgents were to be dealt with.

Under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush years, Brown began setting up “joint Special Forces” teams to conduct F4 missions outside war zones. These were given the anodyne name “Military Liaison Elements.” At least one killing by such a team in Paraguay (of an armed robber not on any targeting list) was written up by New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Thom Shanker. The team, whose presence had not been made known to the US ambassador there, was ordered to leave the country.

“The number-one requirement is to defend the homeland. And so sometimes that requires that you find and capture or kill terrorist targets around the world that are trying to do harm to this nation,” Brown told the House Committee on Armed Services in March 2006. “Our foreign partners… are willing but incapable nations that want help in building their own capability to defend their borders and eliminate terrorism in their countries or in their regions.” In April 2007, President Bush rewarded Brown’s planning by creating a special high-level office at the Pentagon for an assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.

Michael G. Vickers, made famous in the book and film Charlie Wilson’s War as the architect of the covert arms-and-money supply chain to the mujaheedin in the CIA’s anti-Soviet Afghan campaign of the 1980s, was nominated to fill the position. Under his leadership, a new directive was issued in December 2008 to “develop capabilities for extending US reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations.” In this way, the “capture/kill” program was institutionalized in Washington.

“The war on terror is fundamentally an indirect war… It’s a war of partners… but it also is a bit of the war in the shadows, either because of political sensitivity or the problem of finding terrorists,” Vickers told the Washington Post as 2007 ended. “That’s why the Central Intelligence Agency is so important… and our Special Operations forces play a large role.”

George W. Bush’s departure from the White House did not dampen the enthusiasm for F4. Quite the contrary: even though the F4 formula has recently been tinkered with, in typical military fashion, and has now become “find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze,” or F3EA, President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and “capture/kill” programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.

There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the “capture/kill” doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the US war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the US military “footprint” in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. “Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups,” he and his co-author William Rosenauwrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled” “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.”

Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant Colonel George Crawford, who retired from the position of “lead strategist” for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: “Manhunting.” In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,” Crawford spells out “how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.”

The strange evolution of these concepts, the creation of ever more global hunter-killer teams whose purpose in life is assassination 24/7, and the civilians these “joint Special Forces” teams regularly kill in their raids on supposed “targets” have unsettled even military experts.

For example, Christopher Lamb, the acting director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, and Martin Cinnamond, a former U.N. official in Afghanistan, penned an article for the Spring 2010 issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly in which they wrote: “There is broad agreement… that the indirect approach to counterinsurgency should take precedence over kill/capture operations. However, the opposite has occurred.”

Other military types claim that the hunter-killer approach is short-sighted and counterproductive. “My take on Task Force 373 and other task forces, it has a purpose because it keeps the enemy off balance. But it does not understand the fundamental root cause of the conflict, of why people are supporting the Taliban,” says Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who resigned from the government last September. Hoh, who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Forces “capture/kill” programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, adds: “We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the US”

Task Force 373 may be a nightmare for Afghans. For the rest of us — now that Wikileaks has flushed it into the open — it should be seen as a symptom of deeper policy disasters. After all, it raises a basic question: Is this country really going to become known as a global Manhunters, Inc.? or better yet, The most infamous White House Murder INC,....since January 24th 2002 in Hazmieh.....