Islamabad to forbid presence of foreign troops in Fata

Posted by Admin On Friday, 31 August 2012 0 comments
WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are not planning a joint military operation in tribal areas as Islamabad will not allow foreign troops on its soil, officials familiar with talks...

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are not planning a joint military operation in tribal areas as Islamabad will not allow foreign troops on its soil, officials familiar with talks between the two countries on this issue say.
According to the officials, the two sides have discussed various options for combating terrorism in the tribal areas and Pakistan has assured the Americans that it too views the militants as enemies of the state and is already engaged in fighting them.
Pakistan also expressed its desire to conduct a military operation against the militants, particularly those hiding in Waziristan, but told the Americans it would itself decide “when and how to conduct that operation”.
In a recent meeting with American journalists in Washington, a group of Pakistani officials explained that the media was causing “much confusion” by using the term joint operation.
A joint operation, one official explained, would include troops from both sides while in recent US-Pakistan talks on various options for combating militants in Fata “neither side even vaguely suggested” sending US troops into the area.
“Both sides, however, did discuss options for squeezing militants operating along the Pak-Afghan border,” said an official familiar with the talks.
“They are believed to have reached an understanding which requires the other side to seal the border when one side conducts a major operation inside its territory,” the official said.
This understanding comes from the realisation that the Taliban had established safe havens on both sides of the border and were using them to attack targets inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
US and Pakistani negotiators are also believed to have reached an understanding on improving intelligence sharing and on taking immediate action against a target identified by the other side.
Anti-terrorism experts in Washington say that a similar cooperation between security forces on both sides of the border led to Mullah Dadullah’s death last week.
Dadullah headed the Taliban militants in Bajaur but fled to the neighbouring Afghan province of Kunar when Pakistan recently increased pressure on the insurgents.
Dadullah and his deputy Shakir were killed in a Nato air strike last week.
Also last week, Afghan intelligence officials claimed that a leader of the Haqqani network of militants, Badruddin Haqqani, was
killed in an air strike in Fata.
US and Pakistani officials have not yet confirmed Badruddin Haqqani’s death.
US anti-terrorism experts credit increased cooperation between US and Pakistani forces for these successes, although officials on both sides refuse to confirm these claims.
But official sources contacted by Dawn said there were and had been, “certainly conversations about this matter” between US and Pakistani security officials, “especially in meetings at Rawalpindi”.
They pointed out that the commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, is once again meeting the Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
“They obviously will discuss various options for combating terrorists in Fata, as they did in previous meetings,” said one source.
The Americans claim that the Haqqani network has established a safe haven in North Waziristan and uses it to launch operations against US and Afghan troops inside Afghanistan.
US military commanders describe the group as “the most resilient enemy network” and as “one of the biggest threats to US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan”.
They want Pakistan to evict the group from North Waziristan through a major military operation.
A day before his scheduled meeting with Gen Kayani, Gen Allen wrote an article in The Washington Post, claiming that Taliban leader Mullah Omar lives in Pakistan along with his commanders.
“Omar lives in Pakistan, as do many of his commanders. From that safe vantage point, they’ve sent hundreds of young, impressionable, and helpless youths to their deaths and detention in Afghanistan,” he wrote.
US anti-terrorism experts interpret this as increasing pressure on Pakistan to launch the much-talked about military action against the Taliban without further delay.
Anwar Iqbal

Categorically countering terrorism

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There is a need to be categorical about it The latest terrorist attack at Kamra and the sectarian killings in August 2012 provide the latest evidence of the continuing threat...

There is a need to be categorical about it
The latest terrorist attack at Kamra and the sectarian killings in August 2012 provide the latest evidence of the continuing threat of terrorist and armed religious groups. Though their capacity to terrorize the state and society has declined since 2009-2010, these groups can still use violence to advance their religio-political agendas, including the desire to create a domain of authority at the expense of the Pakistani state. The Kamra attack was neutralized in less time than the attacks of the Mehran Naval base and the Army headquarters, the fact that the militants can breach the security of the prime military installations is a matter of grave concern.
The August terrorist activity has also demonstrated that the politically active and vocal sections of the society are divided on the sources of terrorism and the methods for coping with it. They also diverge on who needs to change the policies for controlling terrorism: the government of Pakistan or the Taliban and other militant Islamic groups or the United States? The response of the Pakistani state and society to terrorism is characterized by ambiguity about terrorism and a tendency to avoid criticism of the Taliban and mainland based armed religious groups. Only a small number of people are categorical in criticizing and condemning the groups that engage in terrorism and sectarian violence.
The ambiguous and split societal disposition towards religious extremism and terrorism has sapped the will of the government to adopt a unified and clear-cut stand against the groups and organizations that engage in violence and terrorism.
Only three political parties officially take an anti-terrorism stance and view the Taliban and similar extremist and hardline groups as a threat to the state and the society. These political parties are: the PPP, the MQM and the ANP. They are partners in the federal government.
The opposition and other political parties and groups may express opposition to terrorism and religious extremism as a principle but they do not criticize any specific militant organization for its terrorist or sectarian activities. They blame the federal government of failure to provide security of life and property to the citizens.
The societal disposition towards terrorism is shaped mainly by partisan political affiliations or Islamic denominational affiliations or both. The right of the centre to far-right and Islamic groups and parties demonstrate varying degrees of sympathy for the Taliban and other militant Islamic groups. It ranges from avoidance of criticism, blaming the government of Pakistan and the military for taking action against them, claiming that those engaging in violence are not genuine Taliban but the agents of Pakistan’s foreign enemies in the garb of the Taliban to open support.
A more prominent tendency among them is to hold the United States responsible for all the ills of Pakistan. The more a person is Right-wing and Islamist in orientation the more will be the tendency to see things in Islam versus others and that the U.S. is determined to destabilize Islamic Pakistan and grab its nuclear weapons. By implications there will hardly be any criticism of the Taliban and other militant groups.
Many political and religious groups and column-writers accused India, the U.S. and Israel for masterminding the Kamala attacks. Some of them argued that sectarian killings were also arranged by some of these countries and their agents in Pakistan. Some analysts argued that the attacks and killings were the punishment from the God.
Most Islamic parties and groups, especially those identifying with Deoband, Whabbi, Salafi and Ahle-Hadith traditions of Islam offer varying degrees of support to the militant groups of their respective denominations. The Islamic groups identifying with the Barelvi Islamic tradition are openly critical of the Taliban for the last two-three years. The Shia Islamic groups are also opposed to the Taliban and other sectarian groups that attack and kill the Shias.
Pakistan’s civilian government and the military are unable to convince the people at large that Pakistan’s participation in the U.S. led effort to eliminate terrorism served Pakistan’s national interests. There are few takers of the policy that Pakistan is fighting the war for saving itself from terrorism. This perspective runs deep in Pakistani society, cutting across the denominational and political differences. It afflicts the government circles as well as the Pakistan military. The retired officers of the army are more vocal on this issue. These people may not publicly support the Taliban but their view of war on terrorism and Pakistan’s role are similar to the Taliban.
The lack of unanimity on terrorism is also caused by four dimensional power struggles in Pakistan, i.e., the PPP-led federal government and the opposition; the federal government and the military; the federal government and the overactive Supreme Court; and the military’s policy to play soft with some militant groups.
The federal government has to spend more energy in saving itself from pressures of the opposition parties, the Supreme Court and the military rather than improve governance. The military wants the civilian government to own the military operations in the tribal areas but it exerts its political clout if and when it feels that the civilian government disregards the military’s sensitivities.
The federal government under siege spends more time and energy in surviving the political onslaught. It is unable to mobilize public support for the military’s efforts to control the tribal areas.
The military has often overplayed anti-Americanism and sought the cooperation of pro-Taliban militant and Islamic groups and the Political Right to protect its institutional interests, i.e. the Kerry Lugar bill controversy (2009), the Difa-e-Pakistan conglomerate after the Salala border post incident. By now, anti-American sentiments have become so deep rooted that no rational approach to foreign and security policy can be implemented.
The elected government, the political players and the security apparatus may like to control religious extremism and terrorism but they lack the political will to take and implement difficult decisions. They are unable to evolve a shared disposition on terrorism. The key question is if the military can practically adopt a policy of treating all armed religious groups as a threat? It needs to convince the pro-military circles and retired officers to view countering terrorism as Pakistan’s war and fully support the military on it. As this is not expected to happen in the near future, the confused and ambiguous policy for controlling terrorism against the backdrop of internal power struggle will continue.
Pakistan Today

The drone brigands

Posted by Admin On Tuesday, 28 August 2012 0 comments
As the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism has demanded of the United States to open itself up to independent probe into its use of drone strikes or...

As the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism has demanded of the United States to open itself up to independent probe into its use of drone strikes or let the United Nations do it, Pakistan too has served a strong demarche on it over its stepped up drone incursions into the Pakistani tribal territory, especially the North Waziristan Agency.

Drone attacks were not acceptable in any case as these constituted not only a violation of the international laws but also an assault on Pakistan’s sovereignty, said a protest missive handed over to a US embassy official by the foreign office yesterday. But will the United States hearken to these protesting voices? You must be joking. Not even an outside chance. For, America thinks for being the world’s sole superpower it is above every international norm, rule and law. The others it would want must abide by that international regime strictly but itself it would not. It strikes the odious notes of exceptionalism and expects all others to respect it as being an exceptional country and an exceptional people, not liable at all to any international laws and conventions or any international justice system whereas it expects the others to be duty-bound to follow them.
Then why would it change its course when it finds its drone banditry so effective in perpetuating its adventurisms abroad without putting its own soldiers’ lives at any risk at all? Why would it care for the UN that it uses as its handmaiden or for Pakistan that it deems to be its enslaved colony? They may cry, but they will simply be crying in the wilderness. Not a leaf would flap in Washington. Indeed, as the criticism of its drone banditry is increasingly escalating worldwide, it has put more punch in its thuggish adventurism. Not only President Barack Obama now personally approves the targets to be struck by the drones.
He has also decreed that anyone in the vicinity of an intended target will be deemed a combatant, even if civilian, and hence liable to be slaughtered justifiably.So the warlords of the United States give a damn if the people killed in their drone attacks are real terrorists or innocent civilians. And indeed the data complied by human rights workers show a heavy toll being exacted on civilian lives in these barbaric drone assaults.
Some terrorists may be killed. But many more massacred are innocent children, women and men having nothing to do with militancy or terrorism. Yet the American warlords are continuing with this savage carnage without any qualms. The international laws stipulate that every effort must be made to arrest the criminals and bring them to justice. But they find it more convenient just to eliminate, no lesser for fear of the eliminated spilling the beans, if caught alive and brought to justice. After all, those on the kill list of the American warlords are the ones who were once their protégés and proxies. And it would not be any wrong to assume that with this drone adventurism at this point in time they are indeed pulling a fast one on Pakistan.
In their drone strikes on Eid days in North Waziristan Agency, they slaughtered some two dozens of people. And if the media reports are any guide, the slaughtered were all the people of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the militant commander holding in a peace accord with the Pakistan military. The American warlords’ game plan appears to be to alienate him with the Pakistani state and push him on towards the TTP fugitives now holed up in parts of the North Waziristan Agency and the bordering Afghan province of Kunar and Nuristan to the great grief of Pakistan. Whose proxies are these TTP fugitives is anybody’s guess.
The American warlords are thus at a very diabolical game. And the Islamabad establishment would be very foolish if it doesn’t expose their demoniac scheme to the world community. It must open up its tight lips and speak out the home truths at every available forum at home and abroad. Mere demarches wouldn’t do. Already, with their drone banditry they have turned a lot of our tribal compatriots against the Pakistani State. And with this drone adventurism over these days they are spawning troubles in our tribal areas that ultimately will prove very disastrous for our country and the nation.
Global Research

US weapon sales hit record high of $66 billion

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US weapons sales more than tripled in 2011, reaching a record high, according to a new congressional report. The country sold $66bn worth of arms last year, up from $21.4bn in...

US weapons sales more than tripled in 2011, reaching a record high, according to a new congressional report.
The country sold $66bn worth of arms last year, up from $21.4bn in 2010. The previous record had been $31bn in 2009; global arms sales declined slightly after that because of the economic crisis.
America’s largest customer was Saudi Arabia, which purchased more than $33bn worth of weapons from the US, including dozens of F-15 fighter jets, missiles, and other materiel.
The United Arab Emirates and Oman also both spent billions, purchases driven in part by fears over Iran’s regional ambitions. The Obama administration has touted these deals as a major stimulus for the US economy, saying the Saudi arms sales alone would generate some 75,000 new jobs.
The US also arranged several multi-billion dollar deals with Asian nations, including an agreement with China to sell transport planes worth more than $4bn.
All told, the US sold 78 per cent of the world’s arms in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8bn in arms sales.
The report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, which conducts studies for US lawmakers.
Al Jazeera

India links Pakistan to a terror cyber attack

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Violence in northeast India in mid-July sparked by text-message rumors of imminent reprisal attacks by Muslims against migrant workers and minority groups demonstrated a potent new cyber weapon that could...

Violence in northeast India in mid-July sparked by text-message rumors of imminent reprisal attacks by Muslims against migrant workers and minority groups demonstrated a potent new cyber weapon that could be employed by terrorists, anarchists, and state actors. The speed by which these false messages proliferated coupled with the enormous difficulties in preventing such cyberattacks and determining who is behind them illustrate a new security vulnerability for all nations with mature internet and cell phone networks.
With the aim of fomenting social instability and precipitating social unrest, the mobile connectivity of India was used to transmit mass disinformation to amplify existing ethnic and communal tensions with deadly impact. India is especially vulnerable to such attacks because it has vast numbers of cell phone users, simmering ethnic and religious tensions in many regions, and a government with a poor record of quickly quashing the kind of rumors spread by the recent text message attack.
In mid-July, ethnic tensions in Assam, India boiled over and resulted in the deaths of four individuals from the Bodo people, an ethnic community concentrated in northeastern India. The alleged perpetrators were Indian Muslims seeking revenge for another incident in which student leaders from their community were attacked.
On August 15, mass text and SMS messages began to flood into India, reportedly from Pakistan.  Disturbing images also appeared on Indian social network internet forums. The messages warned that Muslims were launching revenge attacks against Indians in Assam and claimed that similar attacks would follow in major cities. The images and messages inspired panic as Indians fearing for family and friends forwarded the information, causing the disinformation to spread like wildfire.
Fearing reprisal attacks, migrant workers fled and a mass exodus began. Thousands of migrant workers and students fled several major Indian cities, including Bangalore, Mumbai and others. Workers jammed train stations, overwhelming the already stressed public transportation infrastructure.
Clashes and violence continued to breakout between Muslims, migrant workers and members of the Bodo community in the Assam Valley and urban centers around India. On August 18, India’s Home Secretary R.K Singh stated “Morphed pictures, false messages were used to provocate people and trigger panic” . . . “the bulk of these were uploaded in Pakistan.”  The Indian government moved slowly and it took several days before police forces were deployed to the affected areas. A curfew was initiated and officials called for civilians to remain calm, but attempts by security forces to restore order mostly fell on deaf ears.
The Indian government sought to stem the tide of misinformation by cutting off mass text messaging and SMS capabilities throughout the country. In addition, the government shuttered specific Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts believed to be involved in distributing the false information. However, Indian efforts to censor internet sites have been criticized as inept and ineffective.
Indian investigators claim to have tracked most of the text messages, SMS, and social networking posts back to Pakistan. India’s Home Minister accused Pakistan of the cyber attack, but Pakistani officials quickly denied any involvement and demanded proof of Pakistani involvement.
The Hindustan Times reported that intelligence agencies traced the text messages to members of Harkat-ul-Jehad al Islami (HuJi), a Bangladeshi-based terrorist group that operates in Pakistan and the Popular Front of India (PFI), which is reportedly a new umbrella organization for the banned Muslim-extremist group, Students Islamic Movement of India.
The ethnic battles and communal clashes in India over the last month have grown into the worst and most widespread violence of its kind in more than a decade. Reports estimate that over 90 people have died and more than 400,000 people have fled, seeking refuge in makeshift camps.
The implications of this cyber attack are very serious, especially for nations with ethnic or sectarian tensions and large numbers of cellular phone users.  In many ways, this attack is the reverse of how cell phones and the Internet were used during the mass protests after the June 2009 Iranian presidential election and during the 2011 Arab Spring protests.  New communications technology was used during these events to organize protesters, evade government forces, and communicate with the outside world. Now, it seems these new ungovernable, modes of communication are being used to instill mass hysteria and violence.
The situation in Assam was already a tinderbox before text messages and social media images allegedly sparked violence and a mass exodus.  While the Indian government’s accusations that Pakistani-based cyber attacks sparked this violence appear credible, it is possible that the violence also had other causes and that the government is trying to deflect the blame from itself by playing up the cyber warfare angle.
75 percent of India’s population – more than 900 million individuals – have mobile phones. As a result, the ability to spread disinformation using this technology is not an unimaginable feat or difficult endeavor to imagine.
As Zubin Wadia, CEO of CiviGuard Technologies, a provider of emergency communications platforms for civilians explained, “Cyber-terrorists who seek to create this level of panic understand that SMS usage is extensive and mature across India. With SMS applied across such a wide demographic, it would be relatively simple for cyber terrorists to accumulate a cache of cellphone numbers within target regions and dispatch messages to them.”
It is possible, albeit questionable, that the perpetrators were able to achieve the network effect and critical mass necessary to cause widespread social upheavals simply by distributing the threatening messages over social networking platforms and sending them to a handful of cell phones. Nevertheless, a strong case can be made that a more coordinated, targeted, and well planned distribution strategy was responsible.
Whether or not HuJi or PFI is directly responsible is still unclear.  It is apparent that perpetrators of this fear campaign had a good understanding of Indian ethnic and communal tensions. They also knew how best to craft messages that would garner a forceful and emotionally-triggered response.
The recent India text message cyber attack is a form of cyber warfare exploiting the prevalence of both mobile phones and social networking to instigate widespread social instability and violence.  The implications from this cyber attack are clear: cell phone text messages can be a frighteningly effective weapon that can be easily employed by terrorists, anarchists, and state actors.  Authorities in free societies cannot easily curtail the resulting violence from such attacks. Totalitarian regimes will likely see this incident as validation for their censorship policies.
Spearhead Research
Militants belonging to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are planning an attack on Central Jail Faisalabad to secure release of their high-profile accomplices imprisoned there. Intelligence reports, circulated to the...

Militants belonging to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are planning an attack on Central Jail Faisalabad to secure release of their high-profile accomplices imprisoned there.
Intelligence reports, circulated to the Punjab Home Department, office of Inspector General Police and Inspector General of Prisons Punjab, have warned that terrorists belonging to the TTP (Tariq Afridi group) plan to abduct Superintendent Central Jail Faisalabad Tariq Mahmood Khan Babar in order to carry out the jailbreak plan.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Inspector General of Prisons (IGP) Punjab Mian Farooq Nazeer confirmed the reports and assured that foolproof security measures were being put in place to foil any terrorist bid to secure release of their accomplices.
In order to ensure security at prisons and in light of the successful Bannu jailbreak earlier in the year, the Punjab Home Department has requested the ministry of interior to ensure deployment of Rangers at all 9 central jails.
Additionally, IG police has revealed that Punjab government has allocated Rs200 million for installation of jammers at central jails in the province. Three central jails are expected to have operational jammers by the end of the month to cope with emerging threats in the province.
Similarly, in an attempt to equip jail staff to deal with terrorist threats, the first batch of 100 jail staffers will be joining Elite Commando Training Course on September 1, 2012. This process is expected to continue for each batch of commando training during the course of the year.
However, in light of the immediate security concerns, jail authorities have conducted thorough search operations in jails and recovered 2,000 mobile phones from prisoners. In this regard, 65 jailers have been suspended for demonstrating negligence in performing their duties.
Currently, more than 300 high-profile terrorists are incarcerated at 9 central jails in the province, amounting to 90 per cent of all high-profile prisoners imprisoned across the country. The Punjab government is expected to take serious note of threat assessment made by intelligence agencies and ensure tight security protocols are put in place to deter terrorist activity in the province.
The Express Tribune

India's nuclear safety report warns of Fukushima-like disaster

Posted by Admin On Monday, 27 August 2012 0 comments

Indian national auditor's report on India's nuclear safety has raised concerns over a weak regulatory body, Indian media reported on Thursday.
In its report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board's (AERB) performance audit, the Comptroller and Auditor General has warned a Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster if the nuclear safety issue is not addressed by the government.
The AERB, which supervises safety issues at India's 22 running nuclear plants, has no power to make rules, enforce compliance or impose penalty in cases of nuclear safety oversight. It can impose a fine of maximum Rs. 500 as a deterrent in cases.
The report says, "The legal status of the AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the Central Government, with powers delegated to it by the latter."
The national auditor said there was an urgent need for the government to bolster the status of AERB if it was to qualify as an independent regulator in a sector which was likely to become increasingly important in meeting the country's energy needs.
The auditor also pulled up the nuclear regulator for failing to prepare any safety policy for the country even after three decades of its existence.
"Out of the 168 standards, codes and guides identified by AERB for development under various thematic areas, 27 safety documents still remained to be developed...," said the report which was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
The report said without the legal status, the AERB neither has the authority for framing or revising rules relating to nuclear and radiation safety nor can it decide on the quantum of penalties leave alone imposing them.
The report said off-site emergency exercises highlighted the inadequate emergency preparedness to deal with situations involving radiological effects from a nuclear power plant which may extend to public areas.
"Further, AERB was not empowered to secure compliance of corrective measures suggested by it," the audit report said.
It was found that the approach road to the plant site of Tarapur Atomic Power Station was highly congested, which would pose serious problems in dealing with any future emergency, it said.
The report said there was no legislative framework for decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the AERB did not have any mandate except prescribing of codes, guides and safety manuals on decommissioning.
"Even after the lapse of 13 years from the issue of the Safety Manual by AERB, none of the nuclear power plants in the country, including those operating for 30 years, and those which had been shut down, had any decommissioning plan," it said.
The report pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency had recognised the need for independence for regulatory bodies and a number of countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Pakistan and the US have conferred legal status to their respective bodies.
The government has introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (Bill), which seeks to provide statutory status to the nuclear regulator, in Parliament last year.


North Waziristan operation: What must we consider?

Posted by Admin On Sunday, 26 August 2012 0 comments
Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has finally said what the world had been waiting to hear for quite some time now. Speaking at the Azadi Parade at the Pakistan...

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has finally said what the world had been waiting to hear for quite some time now. Speaking at the Azadi Parade at the Pakistan Military Academy over a week ago, he said that militants were a threat to Pakistan and that the army and the nation needed to fight them under a united banner. Yet, he still fell short of calling them Taliban.
Since that speech, there have been conflicting statements and reports — from Washington and Islamabad — on the scope of the planned operation against militants, specifically in North Waziristan. A joint operation has been ruled out by Pakistan and in any case America will not want to get entangled in another area. A coordinated operation and what it would entail has not been explained by either America or Pakistan. Yet, the operation is imminent now. Additional troops have been moved to the area. The army is claiming that a final decision will be taken by the government and if not withdrawn, governor Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s order of 2009 should still be effective and can be used to start the operation.
If a targeted operation means going after specific targets, it will require excellent intelligence, which is lacking at the moment. The Pakistan army also does not have the luxury of drones, gunships and the use of the air force could result in extensive collateral damage. This means that for raids on specific targets, ground troops will have to be deployed. Use of ground forces will result in fighting in the built-up area, which is dreaded by armies due to heavy losses suffered by troops in such situations. Due to limited night-flying capabilities, night raids as carried out in Afghanistan are also not possible. Furthermore, villagers fear the Taliban, so they will not provide help and intelligence to the military. A targeted operation will be a slow and prolonged campaign and will not bring about a quick solution.
A possible option could to be to emulate the strategy employed in Swat and South Waziristan, of vacating the whole area and treating any person found after a deadline as enemy. Swat was a success primarily because of factors not relevant in the North Waziristan case. Both Swat and South Waziristan (the Mehsud area) had no access to Afghanistan. Historically, Swat was a peaceful area and militancy was not in the blood of the Swatis. Falling unknowingly into trap of the Taliban, they were quick to vacate the area, became IDPs and within three months went back to their homes. The IDPs of South Waziristan are still reluctant to go back and remain in camps in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. Though much smaller than South Waziristan, North Waziristan cannot be vacated. With porous borders, militants will prefer crossing the border. And that is where a coordinated effort will be needed. But ISAF’s ability to deploy sufficient troops on the Afghan side of the border is in doubt.
Yet another option is to keep the operation localised. Instead of a major offensive, the agency can be cleared piecemeal. For example, a possible area can be from Bannu till Mir Ali, securing the Mir Ali-Thal road and including the right bank of the Tochi River. However, chances are that militants will not let it remain a localised operation and will try and spread it. Lacking the capability to fight pitched battles, their decentralised command system gives them the advantage of being able to take the initiative and employ hit-and-run tactics.
Whatever option is adopted, it is going to be a prolonged operation and various factors will affect the outcome. Even if it is to target the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the reaction of Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan will play an important role. They are most likely to jump into the conflict. Also, a question remains as to why the US is interested in an operation against only the TTP. At the very least, the American perception that the situation in Afghanistan is bad because of North Waziristan will be proved wrong.
The Express Tribune

Syrian Revolution – A possible fade out?

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The Syrian rebellion so far has been stretched out much like the Libyan rebellion before NATO intervention. Assad is exacting terrible punishments on the rebels with ruthless calculations and all...

The Syrian rebellion so far has been stretched out much like the Libyan rebellion before NATO intervention. Assad is exacting terrible punishments on the rebels with ruthless calculations and all the damage that political debacles and high level defections could have caused him have been mitigated by the state’s continuing military superiority. Unlike isolated, friendless Libya, Syria has powerful friends that it has cajoled/threatened to help it. And unlike Gaddafi, Assad has took a page out of Kim Jon-Ill’s book and publicly stated that he will use chemical weapons against the rebels if anyone from the outside world interferes.
So far Turkey seems to be preparing for a large confrontation with its neighbours, though the chances of an overt warfare are limited. Even covert support to the rebels is limited. Syrian generals that have defected to the rebellion claim that they have nothing more than the small arms and few pieces of heavy artillery they captured from the Syrian army. Long story short, on paper, they are in doomed. The one advantage they do have is morale and the spirit of revolution that west until recently so happily tried to hijack from the Arab Spring as their own invention.  And one would like to hope that it sees them through as long as necessary.
The rebellion has been able to survive under these strains for so long, but now cracks are beginning to show. Assad will soon turn Aleppo into rubble and kill anything that looks like it would wave a different flag. But another event has resurfaced which could permanently put the Syrian revolution in the background of history. Israeli television recently announced that Israel is preparing to attack Iran before the U.S general elections, so they can force Obama to support them. To support this allegation, the Israeli government has ‘leaked’ articles outlining how they would attack Iran, increased the frequency of public speeches decrying the lack of international support, and whipped the blogosphere into a frenzy of speculation.
If Israel does go forward with this, the outcome would be catastrophic for the middle-east. Any Arab monarch whose country was used for attacks would be eaten alive by the people. In the ensuing chaos however, the battle lines will be solidified, and the focus of the region will move firmly towards Israel. Iran, assuming it is not completely decimated by Israel and the U.S to prevent any counterattack, will go on the offensive. If this happens, Assad will not be allowed to fall. Syria will become an indispensible ally for Iran. And since the entire region will be focused on Israel, few will intervene in Syria.
The U.S will still want to remove Assad to close the Russian naval base, but if Israel does carry out its plan, it will have very few friends left in the region to work with towards its goal. European NATO members will pull their hands out of the mess, which is the least we can say for Turkey.
If Israel does go ahead, it will turn the entire Arab Spring flat on its head. The movement that started for freedom and equality will be commandeered by the need for a strong military response and geo-strategic interests. Syria will fall back to its original state while the rest of the region, including Egypt, will put civil liberties in the back seat while they concentrate on military preparedness and move their states to war footings.
By Sarah Eleazar

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the SPY EYES Analysis and or its affiliates. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). SPY EYES Analysis and or its affiliates will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements and or information contained in this article.

Undoing ‘Tight Screw’

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Pakistan’s army is drawing the ‘red line’ on the operational front at the commencement of a critical phase of the ‘transition’ in Afghanistan. When the army chief in Pakistan speaks,...

Pakistan’s army is drawing the ‘red line’ on the operational front at the commencement of a critical phase of the ‘transition’ in Afghanistan.
When the army chief in Pakistan speaks, there is always a hush in the air. The best brains go into huddle and his words get analyzed threadbare for its meaning(s), hidden and apparent. Given the history of Pakistan’s political economy for the past 6 decades, it can’t be otherwise. Just this week, a highly rated Pakistani commentator and analyst Tanvir Ahmad Khan (former foreign secretary and ambassador to the former Soviet Union) wrote, “Despite Pakistan’s sad experience of military rule in the past, a surprisingly large percentage of its people are once again beginning to look to the army for deliverance from an elected government that has disappointed them deeply.”
To be sure, analytical exercises began almost instantaneously over the remarks by the Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Monday that if militancy is not eliminated, Pakistan’s future will be in jeopardy. Big conclusion have since been drawn that the army chief is preparing his soldiers and the countrymen at large for the imminent launch of a military campaign in North Waziristan where the most irreconcilable Afghan insurgents associated with the so-called Haqqani network and its al-Qaeda affiliates ranging from Uzbek militants to the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ are based.
Far away in the Pentagon in Virginia, United Secretary Leon Panetta too read a meaningful message into Kayani’s words. Panetta lent his powerful voice to articulate Washington’s judgment that in the “near future” – which in coded diplomatic language means a matter of days or few weeks – Pakistani army would launch combat operations in North Waziristan. “They’ve (Pakistan) talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I’d lost hope that they were going to do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step,” Panetta added optimistically.
It stands to reason that Panetta felt encouraged to voice the optimism also on the basis of the official feedback he received on the recent meeting between the Central Intelligence Agency boss David Petraeus and his visiting Pakistani counterpart Zaheerul ul-Islam, which were apparently “substantive, professional and productive”.
At any rate, Panetta couldn’t be faulted because Kayani had indeed spoken in strong terms: “We [Pakistan] realize that the most difficult task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to restore peace in these areas [North Waziristan] so that people can lead normal lives. No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force.”
The army chief couldn’t have juxtaposed Pakistan’s existential choices more starkly. The Western media promptly took note that top US military commanders have also been frequenting the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi in the recent days – the last, by the way, being the CENTCOM chief General James Mattis. The US media have since hastened to christen the anticipated joint US-Pakistani military operations against the Afghan insurgent groups in North Waziristan – ‘Tight Screw’.
At this point, things began to unravel. And it is turning out to be an unceremonious unraveling. It all began with the devastating strike by the militants last Thursday on Pakistan’s famous Kamra air base where some of its nuclear missiles and the delivery systems have been kept.
Obviously, the army leadership has sensed that the hype created by Washington and the US’ vocal lobby within Pakistan is creating an explosive mix of anger and resentment in the Pakistani public opinion and creating an impression that something big is going on between the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Pentagon.
Suffice to say, if Panetta’s hype aimed at hustling the Pakistani military leadership into harmonizing with the US’ regional project in Afghanistan and Central Asia, that has proved counterproductive. Kayani has pulled back the big step he had put forward. At a meeting with Gen. Mattis in Rawalpindi on Thursday, he “categorically dispelled” the speculations regarding ‘Tight Screw’.
Kayani explained to Gen. Mattis the importance of distinguishing between ‘coordinated action’ by the US and Pakistani forces and ‘joint operation’. Whereas ‘coordinated action’ merely “implies that Pakistan Army and ISAF conduct operation on respective sides of Pak-Afghan Border”, a ‘joint operation’ goes much, much further and “implies that the two forces are physically employed jointly on either side of the border.”
Besides, “intelligence sharing is the mainstay of mutual cooperation” in a ‘coordinated action’. In short, ‘coordinated action’ is mere foreplay that holds no guarantee of a full and proper enjoining by the two militaries on the two sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Kayani underlined to Mattis that a ‘joint operation’ between the Pakistani and US forces is simply “unacceptable to the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan, hence, has always been our [Pakistan’s] clearly stated red line.”
Kayani then went on to put the Pakistani army thinking in the correct perspective: “we might, if necessary, undertake operations in NWA [North Waziristan Agency], in the timeframe of our choosing and determined only by our political and military requirements. It will never be a result of any outside pressure. Pakistan’s national interest continues to be the prime consideration for any decision in this regard.”
In sum, Kayani has politely and firmly resiled from whatever notions he might have created in the minds of the Americans regarding any new dimension to the ground level f US-Pakistani military cooperation in the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border. From all appearance, he spoke on his own authority. (As is customary, the Pakistani army issued the press release on the Kayani-Mattis meeting.)
How perplexed Gen. Mattis would have been we may never know, but this certainly becomes a mini-setback to the US-Pakistan discourse, which was raring to go following the agreement on the reopening of NATO’s transit routes via Pakistan, and it holds significance for regional security. In the final analysis, what matters is that Pakistani army is drawing the ‘red line’ on the operational front at the commencement of a critical phase of the ‘transition’ in Afghanistan. This is happening at a time when the Afghan insurgents are apparently stepping up their attack on the western forces and Washington is preparing for the next round of negotiations with the Kabul government to formalize the establishment of military bases in Afghanistan.
What prompted Kayani’s retraction? Conceivably, Panetta went way out of line by spilling the beans about what the US and Pakistani military leaders had probably agreed in the recent weeks. At that level, Panetta spoke on authority but he probably unwittingly put Kayani on a spot when he disclosed that the US commanders have discussed with the latter their “concerns” about the Haqqani network’s cross-border activities, whereupon, “General Kayani did indicate that they had developed plans to go into Waziristan. Our [US] understanding is that hopefully they’re going to take that step in the near future. I can’t tell you when. But the indication that we have is that they are prepared to conduct that operation soon.”
However, two days later Panetta also revisited the sensitive topic of the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles falling into the hands of terrorists and militants. “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, than those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands,” Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Wednesday. Strangely, Panetta made these seemingly impromptu remarks right on the eve of the militant attack on the Kamra ‘nuclear base’, which is located hardly 45 kilometers from Islamabad.
Without doubt, the Pakistani public opinion is militating against any form of collaboration by the Pakistan army with the US military operations in Afghanistan. Again, on its part, the military leadership in Rawalpindi has always insisted that the army should be in sync with the public opinion in the matter, which is of course vehemently against the Afghan war and continued US military presence in the region.
Under the circumstances, Kayani is left with no option but to go back by half a step – at least, for the time being. As for Washington, it should be content for the present that ‘coordinated action’ is after all better than no action at all, although its potentials may fall short of a proper ‘Tight Screw’.
M K Bhadrakumar
Russia & India Report

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the SPY EYES Analysis and or its affiliates. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). SPY EYES Analysis and or its affiliates will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements and or information contained in this article.


Pakistan military denies ISI colonel tipped off U.S. about bin Laden

Posted by Admin On Friday, 24 August 2012 0 comments

The head of the Pakistan military's public relations branch told The Cable that a new book claiming a Pakistani intelligence official tipped off the U.S. government about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden is false.
A forthcoming book by journalist Richard Miniter claims that a senior colonel in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate walked into the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in Dec ember 2010, five months before the bin Laden raid, and told U.S. officials about bin Laden's whereabouts. The book also reports that the bin Laden compound was "carved out" of Abbottabad's Kakul Military Academy and that senior Pakistani military officials may have been briefed on the raid in advance.
Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, the recently appointed director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations and the top spokesperson for the Pakistani military and intelligence community, told The Cable by e-mail that Miniter's story is just wrong.
"This is a fabricated story," he said. "Any such story will not have basis and is an attempt to malign Pakistan and Pakistan Army."
The tale implies that the ISI had some advance knowledge that bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad with several members of his family before the May 1, 2011, U.S. raid, Bajwa said.
"You can find twists in [the Miniter story] to show as if Pakistan was helping terrorists, which is incorrect," he said.
Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani told a Washington audience Wednesday that although he could not comment on ISI activities the night of the bin Laden raid, he was sure that the civilian government in Pakistan was caught by surprise about the raid and bin Laden's whereabouts.
But Haqqani called on the Pakistani government to complete its long-promised report on who helped bin Laden and his family hide and survive in a secret compound near a military academy for more than  five years.
"It's Pakistan's responsibility to the world to say who did it," Haqqani told an audience at the Center for the National Interest, formerly known as the Nixon Center.  "It doesn't have to be the government, it doesn't have to be the military, but whoever it is, we have to come clean on that, because that is the only way we will assure the rest of the world that Pakistan's government and Pakistan's state has its hands clean on this whole thing."

Courtesy: Foreign Policy

Negotiating with the Taliban

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Negotiations are the only way forward in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean they will be easy — or that the more pragmatic wing of the Taliban will have the upper...

Negotiations are the only way forward in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean they will be easy — or that the more pragmatic wing of the Taliban will have the upper hand.
As the United States accelerates the withdrawal of its combat troops from Afghanistan, continued violence makes the transfer of military gains to Afghan forces by 2014 an increasingly fraught prospect. Regular assassinations of civilians and the increased use of dumb, pressure-plate-operated roadside bombs — more likely to hit a minibus than an armoured personnel carrier — mean that the number of civilian dead and injured will likely remain a heavy burden on Afghan society long after coalition troops are withdrawn. And while the worst predictions of a full-blown civil war are unlikely to prove correct, there is little doubt that more blood will flow before Afghanistan begins to stabilize. Ultimately, there can be no durable peace without a political resolution to the conflict — and that means dealing with the Taliban.
The big question mark, however, is whether they are truly interested in a political process. Since their emergence in the 1990s, the Taliban’s traditions and experience overwhelmingly suggest a preference for the black and white of violent action over the nuance of political negotiation. There is also plenty of reason to suppose the Taliban may just wait until coalition combat troops leave Afghanistan in the hands of an ill-equipped and less capable national force and then resume their violent campaign. Still, there are signs that certain factions within the Taliban may have learned from their past mistakes and adopted a more conciliatory approach. Might this faction win out and successfully negotiate a political deal with the U.S. and Afghan governments?
So far, the signals have been mixed. In February, it seemed that everything was set for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar and begin serious talks with the United States. At issue would be a peaceful transition to a constitutionally based and al Qaeda-free Afghanistan, with neither side declaring victory nor acknowledging defeat. The tireless Tayyeb Agha, a close confidant of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, appeared to have established himself as a trusted interlocutor for both sides, and small signs of optimism began to show.
But the Taliban suspended the dialogue in March, when the United States failed to release two of five named Taliban prisoners held in the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Their release had been planned as a sign of intent by the United States that would have been matched by the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who turned up in Taliban hands in June 2009 and remains the only U.S. soldier in their custody. Various considerations delayed the execution of this plan, including domestic opposition in the United States, internal tensions in the Taliban, the Afghan government’s suspicion of the process, Pakistan’s reluctance to endorse Qatar as the site for further negotiations, and Qatar’s own desire for clarity about its proposed role.
Despite these complicating factors, something approximating this deal might well go forward in the future and, indeed, it seems that all key players are to some extent waiting on the others to make the necessary moves. Yet it is far from clear what will happen next, particularly because there are substantial asymmetries between the major parties’ demands.
The objectives of the United States mirror those of the international community more broadly: The Taliban should pursue their objectives through political rather than military means, they should accept the Afghan constitution, and they should renounce al Qaeda. For their part, the Taliban demand that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan, that all Taliban prisoners be released, and that the international community recognize the legitimacy of their movement and lift the U.N. sanctions first imposed on them in 1999.
As for the other key players, whose explicit or tacit agreement will be essential to the success of any agreement, the Afghan government wants a political process under its direction that will allow a continued share of power for those who hold it now. The Pakistani government wants to have a seat at the table, or at least full sight of any negotiations, so it can continue to promote its interests in having a government in Kabul that it can influence, or at the very least one that is not susceptible to the influence of India. Islamabad also wants a clearer understanding of what the U.S. sees as the end game in Afghanistan. Finally, Qatar wants to play a supporting role without being caught in the middle if something goes wrong. While some of these objectives are complementary, others are not. Some are mutually exclusive.
While the United States has signalled that it would like to find ways to restart the discussion process as soon as possible, regardless of domestic considerations in the run up to the November presidential elections, the Taliban’s position is harder to read. Apart from the key issues of who goes first and the subsequent sequencing of an agreement, the main difficulties concern Taliban acceptance of the current Afghan constitution and their refusal to negotiate with the current Afghan government. The Taliban’s demand for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including those foreseen in the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Barak Obama and Hamid Karzai in May — as well as their public renunciation of al Qaeda — are also potentially problematic, but not impossible to resolve. The Taliban may well see some advantage in having a limited contingent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, at least in the short term, to help stabilize the country by acting as observers and guarantors of any agreement; and it should be relatively straightforward for the Taliban to build on statements they have already made about ensuring that no one (read: al Qaeda) should use Afghan territory to threaten the security of any other state.
Interviews with senior Taliban reported by the long-time Afghan expert Michael Semple in theNew Statesman in early July, and by Anatol Lieven in the Financial Times later that month, suggest that the Taliban leadership is ready to sit down and talk.
But for every positive sign, there has been a contradictory and negative one, usually in the form of a stiff denial published on the Taliban website.
So what is going on? The answer is that the Taliban are not a homogenous movement. They do not have a single policy towards negotiation or a united vision for how Afghanistan should look in the future. The older Taliban hands, many of whom were only in their twenties when they held power in Kabul in the late 1990s, have grown wiser. They recognize their mistakes and understand that Afghanistan cannot be ruled by dictate or in a fashion that fails to take into account the ethnic divisions and cultural traditions of its people. Although local systems of dispute resolution — where everyone comes out a loser as well as a winner — and traditions of ethnic co-existence may have eroded during nearly 40 years of war, it is clear to this group of senior Taliban that fundamentalist Islam cannot be imposed throughout Afghanistan in 2014 any more than Marxism could be imposed by Nur Mohammed Taraki or Hafizullah Amin in the 1970s.
This group favors negotiations as a way to regain influence in Kabul before the country returns to serious internal discord in the absence of international troops and also as a way of reaffirming the Taliban’s political objectives, which have become increasingly obscured by local interests. Additionally, the pragmatists possibly think they have a better chance of securing an early and satisfactory outcome by negotiating with international actors, in particular the United States, than with the fractious regime in Kabul. The Taliban pragmatists probably see benefit in having some international ownership of an agreement and therefore some guarantees for its implementation. As for al Qaeda, these pragmatists have no diehard loyalty to a movement that has brought such trouble to their doorstep, has grown weak, and retains few of the leaders that they knew personally in the days of fighting the Northern Alliance.
But the pragmatists are not the only group of Taliban leaders, and they have limited support among the rank and file whose commitment to any agreement will be essential to those on the other side of the negotiating table. This second group comprises Taliban commanders who have an interest in negotiation only as a way to reduce military pressure, enabling them to conserve their strength and consolidate their authority in the areas of Afghanistan they currently control. This group looks forward to the real fight beginning after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014. Its members are not prepared to compromise with other Afghan power centres until they have tested their strength. They see no reason to hurry.
A third group of Taliban, with support in particular from the younger foot soldiers — many of whom grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan and have known only war in Afghanistan — has no interest in any sort of negotiation, now or in the future. This group would be appalled at the thought of renouncing links with al Qaeda, the standard bearer of a global movement of which they see themselves a part. These fighters don’t view themselves as Pashtun insurgents so much as holy warriors. And there are plenty of mid-level Taliban commanders, often indistinguishable from local warlords, who are more than ready to exploit their naïve enthusiasm.
There is only value in the United States and/or the Afghan government negotiating with the Taliban if such negotiations are likely to lead, in some measure, to the restoration of peace, stability, and security in Afghanistan. It would be counterproductive to grant concessions that, if not matched by the other side, might only make these objectives more remote. Proceeding with negotiations, then, is ultimately a gamble for the United States — and one that will likely turn on the position of Mullah Omar, the “leader of the faithful” and the only Taliban official with the authority to impose policy on the movement.
So far, Mullah Omar has not revealed where his sympathies lie, and perhaps with good reason. One of his methods of control is to remain aloof from the Taliban’s internal debates and physically remote from their meetings. His directives are received through tapes or public messages that typically coincide with religious festivals — and they usually provide something for everyone. Although this means that he has endorsed the idea of talks, he has not made clear his objective in doing so. For the pragmatists, it is to end the war and re-establish a measure of Taliban influence across the country; for the “talk of peace but prepare for war” group, it is to win time and encourage the removal of the foreigners; for the puritan ideologues, it is a way to obtain the release of prisoners without giving up anything in return. If he defines his objectives too soon, Mullah Omar will risk losing the backing of one or other group of his supporters, weakening his authority and risking the cohesion of the movement. If he moves too late, however, he will have to take his chances against his Afghan opponents without having established precisely what the Taliban are fighting for.
For now, it appears to be in the interest of both the United States and the Taliban to continue to feel their way back towards talks, testing ideas against each other and against the reactions of their supporters. The United States and the Taliban, at least, face a common problem: Explaining what they have achieved in more than 10 years of war –  and why it makes sense to stop now. Both will have to be able to call any agreement a victory. But for the international community as a whole, victory can be defined more easily. It would simply be an end to the bloodshed and an opportunity for Afghanistan to take a quieter place in global affairs.
Foreign Policy


India: Nuclear weapons act as deterrent

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NEW DELHI: In a delicate balancing act, India Tuesday renewed its pitch for universal nuclear disarmament, but underlined that until the world arrived at “this happy state” it will continue...

NEW DELHI: In a delicate balancing act, India Tuesday renewed its pitch for universal nuclear disarmament, but underlined that until the world arrived at “this happy state” it will continue to maintain atomic weapons as they have helped deter others from attempting nuclear coercion or blackmail.
“On at least three occasions before 1998, other powers used the explicit or implicit threat of nuclear weapons to try and change India’s behaviour,” National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said at a national outreach conference on global nuclear disarmament.
Menon disclosed that after India became a declared nuclear weapons state in 1998, it has not faced such threats.
“So the possession of nuclear weapons has, empirically speaking, deterred others from attempting nuclear coercion or blackmail against India,” he added.
The day-long conference, organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs and supported by the external affairs ministry, saw the participation of nearly 1500 students from around 37 universities.
It was held to commemorate the 68th birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who presented a plan for a nuclear-weapons-free world order at the UN General Assembly June 9, 1988.
In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Menon stressed that India has consistently maintained that its nuclear weapons were weapons of deterrence and not war-fighting weapons. “These weapons are for use against an attack on India.”
“Unlike certain other nuclear weapon states, India’s weapons were not meant to redress a military imbalance, or to compensate for some perceived inferiority in conventional military terms, or to serve some tactical or operational military need on the battlefield,” he added.
Menon underlined that said the acquisition of nuclear weapons has imparted an added authority to India’s moral authority for universal disarmament on the global fora.
“We spent 24 years after our first peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974 urging and working for universal nuclear disarmament and a nuclear free world,” he said.
India argued for a nuclear weapons free world out of conviction that such a scenario would enhance national security and that of the rest of the world, he said.
“But sadly this was a conviction and view that obtained much lip sympathy and verbal support but was actually flouted in practice with increasing impunity by others,” Menon said.
“And when the division of the world into nuclear weapon haves and have-nots was sought to be made permanent in the nineties it became clear that possession of nuclear weapons was necessary if our attempts to promote a nuclear weapon free world were to be taken seriously and have some effect,” he said.

PAF officials quiet over investigation findings of Kamra attack

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ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday remained tight-lipped over the probe into the attack on Kamra – one of Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) key bases – after a group of militants...

ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday remained tight-lipped over the probe into the attack on Kamra – one of Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) key bases – after a group of militants attacked the military installation last week killing two security officials.
“There was a stony silence from the office of PAF Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt regarding findings of a high-level inquiry team,” said a senior official of the PAF.
A five-member probe committee, led by Air Marshal Athar Hussain Bokhari, is investigating how militants succeeded in targeting the airbase in Kamra — given the fact that the location had already been attacked twice before.
“We cannot share the findings of the inquiry on [Kamra] attack with anyone at the preliminary stage,” said PAF spokesperson Group Captain Tariq Mahmood. The spokesperson, who chose not to respond to the queries of The Express Tribune, only revealed that a team was investigating various issues which could not be revealed to civilians at this stage.
“Give us one or two more days for some concrete findings about the investigation,” he said when asked a question.
Inquiry reports of the two earlier periphery attacks on Kamra Airbase are yet to be made public and it has been over 18 months since the two high-level inquiries were ordered by then chief of air staff Marshal Rao Qamar Suleiman.
Officials associated with the probe committee told The Express Tribune that the central point of their investigation is to figure out who provided logistic support to the terrorists.
The preliminary investigation, a senior official said, has revealed clues that tell that four of the nine militants stayed in Makhan Suleman, the nearest village to Kamra Airbase. But the official refused to share any more details given the sensitivity of the matter.
The Express Tribune

Israel announces decision to attack Iran

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TV reporter adds: ‘I doubt Obama could say anything that would convince PM to delay a possible attack’ Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the...

TV reporter adds: ‘I doubt Obama could say anything that would convince PM to delay a possible attack’
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the US elections,” Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed on Monday night, and Israel is now “closer than ever” to a strike designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive.
The TV station’s military reporter Alon Ben-David, who earlier this year was given extensive access to the Israel Air Force as it trained for a possible attack, reported that, since upgraded sanctions against Iran have failed to force a suspension of the Iranian nuclear program in the past two months, “from the prime minister’s point of view, the time for action is getting ever closer.”
Asked by the news anchor in the Hebrew-language TV report how close Israel now was to “a decision and perhaps an attack,” Ben-David said: “It appears that we are closer than ever.”
He said it seemed that Netanyahu was not waiting for a much-discussed possible meeting with US President Barack Obama, after the UN General Assembly gathering in New York late next month — indeed, “it’s not clear that there’ll be a meeting.” In any case, said Ben-David, “I doubt Obama could say anything that would convince Netanyahu to delay a possible attack.”
The report added that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to give backing for an Israeli attack before the US presidential elections in November.
There is considerable opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the report noted — with President Shimon Peres, the army’s chief of the General Staff and top generals, the intelligence community, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, “and of course the Americans” all lined up against Israeli action at this stage.
But, noted Ben-David, it is the Israeli government that would have to take the decision, and there Netanyahu is “almost guaranteed” a majority.
Other Hebrew media reports on Tuesday also said Netanyahu had despatched a senior official, National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, to update the elderly spiritual leader of the Shas ultra-Orthodox coalition party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on the status of the Iranian nuclear program, in order to try to win over Shas government ministers’ support for an attack.
The Times of Israel

Did Obama’s first term start looking like Bush’s third?

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 23 August 2012 0 comments
In a dramatic essay, Thomas Frank blames Obama’s conciliatory nature for a first term that looked like Bush’s third This is the point in a presidential election when people begin...

In a dramatic essay, Thomas Frank blames Obama’s conciliatory nature for a first term that looked like Bush’s third
This is the point in a presidential election when people begin talking about the lesser of two evils, when the weaknesses in one’s own candidate pale in comparison to the reality of the other side taking over. But in a remarkable essay in the new issue of Harper’s magazine, the political thinker Thomas Frank levels President Obama’s first term as a dramatic failure compared to the rhetoric that landed him in office, and the potential he had to truly transform the country.
Frank, whose books include “What’s the Matter With Kansas” and “Pity the Billionaire,” makes the case that Obama’s conciliatory nature has been a tragic flaw, one exploited by conservatives in Congress again and again. But he also argues that Obama has “enthusiastically adopted” the ideas of the right when it comes to deficit spending, Wall Street regulation, torture policies, healthcare and more. And his reward for reaching for compromise and grand bargains, “for bowing to their household gods,” has been to be depicted as a socialist and a radical leftist.
The end result? Frank writes that “What Barack Obama has saved is a bankrupt elite that by all means should have met its end back in 2009. He came to the White House amid circumstances similar to 1933, but proceeded to rule like Herbert Hoover.”
We talked to Frank over the phone Wednesday about his essay, Obama’s first term, and what a second might look like.
You make the case in this essay that President Obama has failed to bring the kind of change he promised, that in many ways he has continued the policies of George W. Bush — and that we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, given his history as a conciliator. Let me start with the simplest question: Are you suggesting there’s not much of a difference between the Obama administration and Bush?
Well, certainly there are differences, of course. I don’t think Bush would have pulled out of Iraq so quickly. How soon we forget. That would still be dragging on in some way, I think. The stimulus would have been handled differently. Bush did several rounds of stimulus as president, and they always involved tax cuts. And I don’t mean to brush off the way the Obama team runs the apparatus of the state; go back and look at something like the Labor Department under George Bush, which was a joke. They were cracking down on labor unions. That’s what they thought their mission was. Of course, that’s no longer going on. The EPA — the Republicans put it in the hands of a series of people who were hostile to the mission, and that’s not going on any longer.
Obama definitely governs differently now and then, but look, the things that matter, as everyone is saying now, are economic issues. And what’s telling about the stimulus is what he didn’t do. The part that he apparently did want, that he said he wanted — the direct hiring by the federal government in the Roosevelt manner — he didn’t do any of that. They didn’t do any of the sort of WPA thing that they should have done. There was a real failure of imagination throughout his presidency. The bailouts, the differences between Obama and Bush on the bailouts are insignificant. Obama deliberately went way out of his way to signal continuity on that front, which was probably the most important issue of them all. The bailouts have been (this is the sort of original sin that is dragging him down) the thing that has been most unpopular.
So how have the Republicans been so effective, from the minority, in dragging the center toward their positions? Is this where they have simply exploited Obama’s love of bipartisanship and his stated goals of working together to find compromise?
Right, it’s not just that he’s a conciliator, but that he announced it. This is what his whole life has been about. He’s not just a conciliator, he’s an intellectually committed conciliator. He’s a philosophical believer in bipartisanship.
And when that’s announced in advance, it is hard to negotiate.
Well, it compromises your position right off the bat. It almost by definition makes you a bad negotiator, yes. But if you do this as a sort of mental exercise, if you have one side that has already announced that it believes in bipartisanship as a philosophical goal, this is their greatest commitment, how is the other side going to play that? Well, if the other side decides, we’re not going to give an inch on anything and make them come to us all the time, they’re obviously going to win. The thing is, centrism of this kind, the reason that it is celebrated by pundits and columnists alike, the reason they celebrate it so is because it’s so sophisticated, and it’s supposed to be the way to play the game. What I wanted to do in this column is point out how that’s absolutely contrary to reality.
Obama thinks he is reaching across the aisle, the Republicans move farther to the right, and as he stretches and stretches for compromise, he’s being dragged to an entirely new part of the political spectrum.
Yes, which they have done. And that’s the thing that nobody understands, which is when you declare — which Obama did and Clinton partially did before him — that the two parties are the only thing that matter, and bridging the differences between them and the distance between them is what matters, it makes the issues themselves kind of secondary. It’s the centrism that comes first, and the bipartisanship that comes first. Everything comes down to this sort of geometrical relationship between the two parties. If that’s the case, then everything is freed from its moorings and the Republicans are allowed to move whichever way they want. Obviously that’s going to be to the right in order to drag the debate with them.
It’s not just game theory, of course. The Republicans were presented with the same challenge as Obama, which is how do you deal with the financial crisis and this incredible economic setback. And they actually came up with a compelling answer to this question. Obama came up with an answer to the question of what should we do about partisanship, because like many people here in Washington, he thinks partisanship is the real challenge. He thought the real problem with America is that we have these parties and they fight with each other over every little thing. And he’s right to some degree. It is a problem, and it’s annoying if you turn on the TV and here’s Fox News, and you turn on another channel and here’s MSNBC. They’re both insulting and stupid in their own way. Yes, it’s a problem, but it’s not the main problem. It’s not even in the top 10 problems, as far as I’m concerned, but for Obama it’s the No. 1 problem.
Now the other side looks out at what is actually the real problem, which is economic catastrophe. What the public really wants is not someone who is going to reach out across the aisle and shake hands with the other side and say that “we aren’t red states and we aren’t the blue states, we’re the United States.” No. They wanted an answer to the problem at hand, and here’s the crazy thing: the Republicans came up with one. It’s a fanciful answer, the answer that we deregulate more, that we have to reach out and achieve that perfect capitalism that’s eluding us.
Their solutions are the same policies that got us into the mess. More deregulation, more tax cuts. And somehow it’s taken as a serious position.
Right, they’re doing it with the very policies that got us into trouble in the first place. The idea of deregulating Wall Street is absolutely insane, but that’s their answer to the question. At least it’s an answer. Reaching across the aisle and making friends with the other side is in some ways precisely the wrong thing for the moment. The public is in the throws of this revolt against elites, and against insiders. Against Wall Street insiders, Washington insiders, whatever you want to call it. And this is both left and right; this is Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement. And here’s Obama saying, you know, if we just put experts in charge they’ll fix everything, and we all need to get together here in Washington and fix everything. It’s exactly the wrong message for the moment.
Obama cleaned the Republicans’ clock in 2008. And then, as you write, handed “a vanquished but utterly intransigent foe a veto” over his agenda. How does that happen?
That part of it, it’s the insult added to the injury. The worst part of it is that he didn’t seal the deal after he won in 2008. He did not want to talk about the economy and what went wrong; he did not want to talk about what went wrong with the Bush administration, and you think of all of the sort of regulatory disasters … You want to talk about what went wrong, about the people regulating Wall Street, and you couldn’t have an easier way of making that case about regulatory capture. You look at these agencies, who was in them, who was in charge of them, who they answer to, and they’re filled with lobbyists from the financial industry. It was open and shut. He doesn’t want to go back and talk about it.
Then you have the oil spill disaster, where the regulators were, again, asleep — completely missed it. Another perfect example, perfect object lesson for him to go back and talk about what’s wrong with the regulatory state. He never does. And this is something where protesters on both the left and right are talking about regulatory capture now, and about the insiders ruling the country. Everybody is talking about this—except for him. He let that victory just slip through his fingers because he doesn’t want to go and speak about the dark side of people’s suspicions. He wants to remain cheery and upbeat.
And as a result, you suggest that Obama saved a bankrupt elite that we had the chance to shove off the stage in 2009. 
Every financial commentator of the last 20 years was proven to be an ass; Alan Greenspan and all of them,  looked like fools. All the people who were put in charge, all the people who were on the Op-Ed pages, like the New York Times, all the popular financial books, everything. I thought that we really had arrived at a kind of day of reckoning, and here was Barack Obama to make it happen. You think back to the 1930s, and there was this huge intellectual shift. It wasn’t just political, it was intellectual, in the academy and in magazines, everywhere you looked, in the way people felt about the economy. And that didn’t happen this time. All those people who were so badly discredited, they hung on. They’re still there; they got to keep those jobs. They just went from the old administration to the new one. He just brought in a couple of Clinton retreads and even a couple of Bush retreads, and they just kept going. There was no fallout for these people. There were no consequences for these people.
The most disheartening thing when you look at it is that we didn’t make the turn. History came to a corner and we didn’t turn.
So what is the lesson to take from that? That things are so impossibly broken, that there is this ruling class that cannot be defeated?
Well, I don’t know. They haven’t been defeated by my team, you know, by Team Liberal. Let Paul Ryan get in there and do his tricks … No, that’s a really cynical, awful thing to say. I’m very disheartened these days, let me put it that way. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I don’t see any other way to talk about this. I myself will probably vote for Barack Obama, almost for sure, because you know, getting Paul Ryan and company in power would be a disaster for this country, there’s no question about it. We need look no further than Todd Akin to remember why.
But yes, I am coming to a very cynical place … I mean, that’s what happens when that kind of idealism sours. That is the result, it congeals into a kind of cynicism. Now I was never as optimistic about Barack Obama as a lot of people were, but at the same time I did certainly expect that there would be a kind of intellectual transition in this country, that change would come. And instead it’s been the exact opposite, you know? It changed the other way.
And yet, the right’s caricature of Obama is the exact opposite — that he has led us to European-style socialism.
Yeah, it’s a hoot isn’t it? I think the reason why they say that is just because they can. It’s like going for his strong point, which was his centrism. To deny that in such a counterintuitive way, to look at a guy like Barack Obama and instead of seeing this born conciliator, which is what “The Audacity of Hope” is all about, to depict him as exactly the opposite. But it’s also about, that’s what Republicans do. That’s historically how they’ve approached their opponents.
It’s almost impossible to imagine Democrats being this effective in opposition, ever.

It’s because they don’t believe in fighting. They’re campaigning much more effectively this time around than they have in the past. I mean, John Kerry just took it, you know? They’re not doing that this time, they’re fighting back hard, and I like to see that. And Obama, he’s doing the populist thing, which is the right thing to do when you’re faced with a guy like Mitt Romney, one of the richest men in America. That is certainly the right way to play it, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I mean, I’m loving watching this campaign unfold. It’s a lot of fun. But that’s a spectator sport, and it shouldn’t blind us to what he has actually done in the White House in the last four years. He hasn’t been he kind of president that his political rhetoric would imply. It would be nice if in his second term maybe he’ll come around. Maybe he has changed his ways; it wouldn’t surprise me if the rough handling he’s gotten from Boehner and co. taught him a lesson.
Do you think he has learned lessons in a first term that he’d apply in a second in a more aggressive, progressive politics?
Oh I think he has, and I think he changed — the turning point for him I think was the debt ceiling showdown with the Republicans. It became so screamingly obvious that it would be impossible for him not to realize it. He was still talking about a grand bargain at that point. He put Social Security on the table and that still wasn’t enough. That was incredible, when he did that, that a Democratic president would do that.
Then to get back to your question earlier — why are they so bad, why are they so weak — this is the chronic question that goes back to the ’70s, and it’s unfortunately because they don’t believe in the sort of traditional hand that they’ve been dealt. They’re Democrats, but they don’t like being Democrats. What they want to be is a kind of Tom Friedman Democrat. I’m serious, they believe in free trade and the world is flat and all that kind of bullshit. It’s not the vision of the Democratic Party of FDR or Harry Truman or even Lyndon Johnson.
David Daley is the executive editor of Salon.

Israel’s curious allegations against Iran’s nuclear weapon

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Leading Israeli figures including Prime Minister Netenyahu and Defense Minister Barak have once again begun to make loud noises about Iran’s nuclear program and the inevitability of an Israeli strike...

Leading Israeli figures including Prime Minister Netenyahu and Defense Minister Barak have once again begun to make loud noises about Iran’s nuclear program and the inevitability of an Israeli strike against Iran to destroy its capacity to enrich uranium. Whether the Israelis are serious this time or merely crying wolf as usual is anyone’s guess. However, it is clear that the politics surrounding Iran’s nuclear enrichment program – totally civilian according to Tehran, ambiguous according to the IAEA, and military according to Israel and the United States – is getting “curiouser and curiouser” to the extent that it has almost begun to resemble Alice’s experience in Wonderland. This is the case for a number of reasons.
First, the charge against the Iranian nuclear program is led by Israel, which is the sole nuclear weapons power in the Middle East. This defies any logic except the logic of Israeli exceptionalism. Israel’s current rhetoric would have made sense had Israel put its own nuclear weapons on the table, accepted the idea of a NWFZ in all of the Middle East including Israel and Iran, and offered to sign the NPT and then made the point that it had the right to attack Iran if the latter did not accept this offer. But, denying Iran’s right to go nuclear (assuming that that is what Tehran desires) while holding on to its own nuclear arsenal and delivery systems makes Israel appear self-righteous and devious at the same time. The argument that Israel needs nuclear weapons because enemies surround it makes little sense in light of the fact that Israel is the dominant military power in its neighborhood and perpetuating this dominance is an integral part of American policy toward the Middle East.
Second, the case gets even curiouser if one scrutinizes the argument that an Iran in possession of rudimentary nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel which is in possession of several hundred nuclear weapons of varying sophistication and size plus multiple, some of them state of the art, delivery systems. Iran’s rulers would have to be desperate morons, which by all accounts they are not, if they decide to launch a first strike against Israel in the context of this nuclear reality. Iran’s mullahs, however unpalatable their rule may appear to be to many in the West, are not in the business of committing national suicide.
Third, the argument that Iran will be able to enhance its political influence in the Middle East especially in the Persian Gulf by acquiring nuclear weapons capability also makes little sense. Nuclear weapons may have deterrent capacity but are of little use as instruments of influence or of warfare. In fact, as current reports about the Gulf states acquiring anti-missile defense capability from the West testify, a nuclear Iran is likely to drive Iran’s Arab neighbors further into the arms of the United States thus increasing its isolation.
Moreover, of late Iran’s political stock has been falling among the neighboring countries both because of its ruthless suppression of the democratic movement in the country in 2009 and because of its current support to the Assad regime engaged in suppressing the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. Adding a few rudimentary nuclear weapons to its arsenal is not going to buy Iran political influence in this context and may, in fact, turn out to be counterproductive politically.
Fourth, and the “curiousest” of them all is the fact that one member of the United Nations – Israel – is repeatedly threatening a military attack on another – Iran – without any fear of negative repercussions from the members of that august body for threatening international peace and security. Such repeated aggressive rhetoric by any other member of the UN would have led the Security Council go into overdrive and pass resolutions threatening the state expressing such aggressive intent with action, including military action, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
In this case, on the contrary, every escalation in the aggressive Israeli rhetoric has led to senior American officials rushing to Jerusalem not to warn it of dire consequences if it attacked Iran but to plead with the Israeli government to give the P5+1 more time through economic sanctions and by other means to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The curious thing about these episodes is that they take place while the American intelligence is nearly unanimous that Iran is not about to go nuclear any time soon.
Israel’s rhetoric makes much about the fact that Iran is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions by continuing with its uranium enrichment plan and that this justifies an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. If this logic goes unchallenged it would allow member states to appropriate the powers of the UN Security Council and determine what actions individual states or groups of states can take to implement Security Council resolutions that they find desirable. This is a recipe for mayhem and anarchy in the international system.
Just imagine if Iran or Egypt made the case that Israel is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 by not withdrawing from occupied Palestinian territories and that this gives them the right to bomb Tel Aviv. Would Defense Secretary Leon Panetta be rushing to Tehran or Cairo to plead with Khamenei or Morsi to give the US and its allies more time to force Israel to withdraw by imposing ever more stringent economic sanctions on it? Or would the United States immediately convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to undertake harsh measures under Chapter VII of the Charter against Iran or Egypt for threatening international peace and security? One can reasonably assume that the latter would be the course of action followed by Washington and other members of the P5+1. If this conclusion is correct, then should the same logic not apply to Israeli threats against Iran’s nuclear facilities?
Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations and  Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is the author of The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World.