Former MI official clears Army in Asghar Khan case

Posted by Admin On Wednesday, 31 October 2012 0 comments

The Supreme Court’s short order in the Asghar Khan case may have placed blame on two army generals for violating the Constitution by rigging the 1990 elections against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but it left lingering questions about the details of the so-called “anti-state activities” of “some players” that prompted the interference to begin with. One of the pushers of the “national interest” argument, the former head of the Military Intelligence (MI) Sindh chapter Brigadier (retd) Hamid Saeed shared details of such activities with The Express Tribune. In an earlier statement submitted by the former MI chief to the Supreme Court, which Saeed also shared with The Express Tribune, the former MI chief said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was labelled a “security risk” for Pakistan, adding that Bhutto’s public criticism of the army had landed her in hot waters. Saeed, who claimed that it was not an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operation and that the MI was supervising it when Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani was its director general, claimed that the former prime minister had also blamed the army for supplying weapons to ‘Muhajirs’ in Karachi, citing the target killings of political workers by rival groups in the city. Bhutto also publicly slammed the army for enriching uranium to levels not acceptable to world powers, he said. Furthermore, Saeed claimed that Bhutto in another incident censured the army for conducting an annual military exercise in Sindh without her consent, adding that the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) was forced to issue a press release clarifying that under the law the army chief was not obliged to seek anyone’s permission for conducting training exercises in any part of the country. Saeed also referred to a BBC interview of Benazir Bhutto in which she voiced her support to India in crushing the armed dissident Khalistan movement in Indian Punjab. In his affidavit, Saeed alleged that the Bhutto-led government had also given sensitive posts in the government to Al-Zulfiqar activists, endangering national security. The retired brigadier alleged that these activists had been given training by India to carry out acts of terrorism and that a record of these terrorists was available with the intelligence agencies. In an interview with Waqt TV, Saeed also named Mir Murtaza Bhutto, brother of Benazir Bhutto, as a supporter for these activists. The former MI official claimed that, after the Bhutto government was sent packing through a presidential order on September 12, 1990, the then DG MI Major General Muhammad Asad Durrani visited Karachi and directed him to open six accounts in different banks, send him the titles of the accounts and monitor the account balances on a weekly basis. Saeed added that, in compliance with these directions, six accounts were opened in different banks, in which funds began pouring in from September 16, 1990. By October 22, 1990, Rs140 million had been deposited in these accounts, he said. “I would like to state that, during my service with the Military Intelligence, I was of the opinion that the funds were coming from the General Headquarters (GHQ),” Saeed said, adding that he only learnt of Younus Habib’s involvement in the case after he was arrested for fraud at Habib Bank Limited. Furthermore, he claimed that Durrani had called him to explore the possibility of bailing Habib out of jail, adding that the army chief wanted to secure his release because he had been helpful in doing work of “national importance.” “I showed him my inability to do so because the case was sub judice,” Saeed said. The Express Tribune

‘Iranian Pearl Harbor’ obligatory now says Israel

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When the Bush-Cheney administration was in power, Dick Cheney tried hard to find an excuse for military attacks on Iran. After all, according to Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1997 to 2000, Cheney and other hawks had plans for attacking and destroying seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa over five years in order to transform them into U.S. client states, and he wanted to “accomplish” as much as possible before leaving office. Various options were considered. As reported by Seymour Hersh, in late 2007 the Bush-Cheney administration received congressional approval for its request for $400 million to launch major covert operations against Iran, and a presidential finding signed by Bush authorized a secret program for destabilizing Iran by supporting puppet groups purporting to represent the Iranian Arabs living in the oil province of Khuzestan, the Baluchi people, and other separatist “organizations.” Aside from terrorist operations that killed many innocent Iranians, the program failed. Other venues were also tried, ranging from fabrications about Iran’s alleged interference in Iraq to huge shows of force in the Persian Gulf and a campaign of lies and exaggerations. Another option that was considered was provoking the Iranians to attack the U.S. forces, hence justifying counterattacks by the U.S. Given the long history of the attacks by the U.S. Navy on Iranian ships and offshore oil installations in the Persian Gulf, and the destruction by the U.S. Navy of the Iranian passenger jet in July 1988 that killed 290 people, creating an “incident” in the Persian Gulf to justify the attacks seemed only “natural.” Then, in January 2008 five Iranian patrol boats supposedly made aggressive moves toward three U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. Bush called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and it appeared momentarily that Cheney’s wish had been realized. But less than a week later the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the threatening radio transmission that the press had initially reported coming from the boats. In fact, it had come from a prankster. Hersh also revealed that in 2008 some administration officials met in Cheney’s office to discuss ways to provoke a war with Iran. As Hersh explained, “There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT [patrol] boats. Put Navy SEALs on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Strait of Hormuz, start a shoot-up …. It was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans.” But, the War Party learned a lesson: To gain public support for attacking Iran, create the “right” incident. Four years later, the idea is surfacing again, with the War Party and the Israel lobby calling for an “Iran Pearl Harbor.” Although under Yukiya Amano, the politicized International Atomic Energy Agency has been highly critical of Iran, it still reports consistently that it has found no evidence that Iran has diverted its enriched uranium to a non-peaceful purpose and, in fact, Iran has recently diverted it to peacefulpurposes — fabricating fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes for 850,000 Iranian patients annually. Senior Obama administration officials have also emphasized over the past several months that Iran is not making nuclear weapons and has not even made the political decision to move forward toward building them. Over the past several years there have been several analyses arguing that the U.S. can live with an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and that such an Iran will even be a stabilizing factor in the Middle East. Thus, the War Party’s hope for “justification” for war with Iran based on its nuclear program has been quashed, at least for now. It has therefore revived the idea of creating the “right incident” for provoking a war with Iran and gaining the public’s support for it too. One leading advocate of this has been Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the research arm of AIPAC. Although his recent suggestion for provoking a war with Iran (see below) attracted wide attention, he has been virulently anti-Iran for at least a decade, and he has never shied away from promoting attacks or provocative acts against Iran. In a conference on Iran’s nuclear program in November 2004 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, Clawson declared, Look, if we could find a way in which we could introduce computer viruses which caused the complete shutdown of the Bushehr system before it became operational, that would be delightful. If we could find ways in which these very complicated centrifuges, which are spinning at such high speeds, could develop stability problems and fly apart, and the cascade [of the centrifuges] could be destroyed, I think that would be delightful. And, indeed, if we could find a way to create an industrial accident of the scale of the Three Mile Island which did not cause a single fatality, which would prevent Bushehr from becoming operational, I think that would also be very helpful. If we could find ways to bring about industrial accidents, that offer good prospects of not endangering human life, but may unfortunately cause some collateral damage, then that’s a plan that we have to consider. Note the outrageous claim that the Three Mile Island nuclear accident did not cause any fatality, a claim that, as I pointed out then, had already been totally discredited. A recent study indicated that an attack on four of Iran’s nuclear sites would kill up to 85,000 Iranians. But Clawson is oblivious to such facts. Several months ago in a debate on al-Jazeera TV regarding the assassination ofIranian nuclear scientists, Clawson supported targeted assassination — a “polite” name for state-sponsored terrorism — which both Israel and the U.S. have been using, calling it “a valid instrument of war” and declaring, If we were going to say that everyone that is involved in targeted assassination is responsible as a terrorist, then Mr. Obama would quickly be thrown in jail, because the United States has killed over 1000 people with its targeted assassination program with its drones, targeted assassinations that have included American citizens. So, the idea that targeted assassination is an instrument of war is something that the U.S. has well accepted. So, the idea that Israel might use targeted assassination as an instrument of war — we may not like it, we may disapprove of it, we may think that it is a bad idea for Israel to do that — but it is a valid instrument of war. Clawson did not explain why, if his claim is true, the War Party constantly moans about Iran committing terrorism, calls for “holding Iran accountable,” and refers to Iran as the “leading sponsor of terror.” Terrorism is a valid instrument of war only for one side? Then Avi Perry, a former Israeli intelligence officer, opined that a “Pearl Harbor-style Iranian attack” on an American warship in the Persian Gulf would provide the pretext for the U.S. to launch all-out warfare against Iran. He did not explain why Iran would want to stage such an attack, expecting a fierce counterattack by the U.S. Perry was implicitly suggesting staging such an attack on behalf of Iranians, the way Cheney wanted it. Clawson got Perry’s message. In September in a WINEP policy forum luncheon on “How to Build U.S.-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” Clawson lamented, “I frankly think that crisis initiation [with Iran] is really tough,” and that, “It’s very hard for me to see how the United States — [the] president can get us to war with Iran.” After reciting a number of historical incidents that U.S. was able to use to justify going to war, such as the Pearl Harbor attack and the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Clawson said, “So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war [for them],” and, “Look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Then, one day one of them might not come up. Who would know why? We could do a variety of things [to provoke Iranians], if we wish to increase the pressure,” and, “We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians, we could get nastier at that.” In effect, Clawson, who should be forced to register as a lobbyist for Israel, is calling for fabricating a reason to attack Iran. The War Party and its Israeli allies will do what they can to provoke a war with Iran over its nonexistent nuclear weapons program. Only public vigilance can prevent them from taking us to such an unjustified and criminal war. ANTIWAR.COM

At a time when talk of possible military action in North Waziristan Agency dominates Islamabad and the GHQ, a carefully coordinated upsurge in activities of banned extremist outfit Hizbut Tahrir (HT) has become cause for multiple worries for the military, according to intelligence sources familiar with the matter. Not only does the group’s ‘containment’ divert important resources from the operation in the tribal areas, including its intel-intensive spillover into main cities, but recent findings of its infiltration into sensitive military cadres has jolted the army high command, causing immediate cessation of certain sensitive operations till a thorough probe is carried out. The seriousness of the group’s outreach grabbed public attention after the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan in May last year, along with four majors, for links with HT. Initial investigation revealed that the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden infuriated the group’s army bloc, prompting a serious, formal objection to the top command regarding the forces’ subservience to US interests. Subsequent scrutiny uncovered HT’s expansion strategy and recruiting tactics. According to the findings, all the while the army has combated al Qaeda and TTP affiliates in the tribal agencies, HT has grown quietly in the working middle class, its tentacles spreading to the military and social intelligentsia. ‘They target minds’: The identity of its principal founder is disputed, but Hizbut Tahrir (Party of Liberation) was founded in Jerusalem in 1953. It aims to reestablish the early Islamic tradition of the caliphate. And while it differs in ideology from al Qaeda’s tendency toward militancy, preferring non-violence instead, it shares the Salafi school’s outright rejection of democratic politics and capitalist free-market economics. It has no petrodollar-funded seminaries like the Saudi backed madrassas that spawned al Qaeda and the Taliban. It operates on two parallels; openly inviting military officers to revolt against their top-most command, while running secret networking rings at the same time. It does not advocate an al Qaeda like fight-to-the-finish, yet is fiercely anti-US, and chooses communication as opposed to coercion to spread its message. Active in more than 40 countries, it is presently headquartered in the UK, and formally began operations in Pakistan in 2000. It was banned in December for 2003, suspected of anti-state activities, including an alleged plot to assassinate then president Pervez Musharraf. “Their’s is a potentially far more destructive method of operation (than al Qaeda)”, says an intelligence official on the condition of anonymity. “They target minds instead of strategic installations and personnel, using the power of the intellect instead of road-side bombs. They have a self-perpetuating influence”. According to information obtained so far, they target educated professionals, while making no secret of specifically reaching out to the army. In an open letter addressed to the officer corps, it urged the ISI and corps commanders to overthrow the existing ruling elite. Accusations, counter-accusations, int’l condemnation: The Brig Ali episode coincided with a number of international incidents involving HT. The Indian government has confirmed that its homegrown terrorist group, Indian Mujahideen, regularly receives “intellectual and financial” support from HT. Daily Mail Online India reported Oct 7 that HT was suspected of masterminding last year’s coup attempt against Sheikh Hasina’s government in Bangladesh. The group’s members have been recently detained in Kyrgystan, Russia, and across eastern Europe, leading a number of countries to ban it, including Germany, Turkey, Bangladesh, Austria and Russia. Intelligence chatter has also picked worrying signals regarding the group’s shift to violent methods, at least advocating and financing them. This turnaround was confirmed during the Indian intelligence’s recent interrogation of Abu Jundal, the Lashkar e Tayyaba’s (LeT) point man in India, after extradition from Saudi Arabia. According to Pakistani intelligence, this recent surge in activity across the region, coupled with credible reports of HT now “going violent”, especially after the Musharraf assassination plot, means the organisation is positioning itself for a coordinated show of force, and the timing and impact of the so-called Arab Spring acted as a catalyst. Reports also indicate “strategic partnership deals” with al Qaeda elements, especially in Pakistan, which threaten to “seriously complicate the army’s anti-terrorism calculus”. In addition to creating another front for the GHQ to consider, there’s also the disturbing thought about depth of the infiltration. According to a New York Times’ report (Aug 3, ’12), “Several weeks before Brig Khan’ arrest last year, Pakistani intelligence warned the government that the movement was planning an Arab Spring like offensive”. Funding and containment: HT exploits Pakistan’s strategic position and loopholes in the military’s leaning towards America to incite rebellion in the army in a narrative not very different from al Qaeda’s. And while its argument that Washington needs Islamabad’s compliance to check Russia and China in Eurasia and control resource rich Central Asia makes for a strong case, it employs. Pakistan Today

Former Indian Chief labels govt as ‘anti-people’

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In a stinging attack on the government, former Army chief General VK Singh, who has joined Anna Hazare in his crusade against corruption, on Monday termed it “anti-people” and demanded immediatedissolution of parliament. Gen (retd) Singh said the government is “bending to the corporates”. In a direct attack on Prime MinisterManmohan Singh, VK Singh asked him why the government was “looting” people. Singh retired a few months ago. Gen Singh was speaking to media persons alongside Hazare, who is expected soon to launch an anti-graft team after severing ties with Arvind Kejriwal and India Against Corruption (IAC) over their decision to form a political party. Times of India

On the wrong side of the fence

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“There is a point at which non-interference becomes complicity in mass murder.” The Middle East is undergoing ahistoric transformation. Parts of the region are up in flames, and Asia’s primary powers either have no role or a destructive one. Pakistan, Indonesia and other Asian Muslim countries, as well as India, with the world’s second-largest Muslim population, are largely uninvolved, as if events in the region have no bearing on them. Japan is preoccupied with its own domestic difficulties. Russia and China consistently support the “bad guys” and in the process are both undermining regional developments and harming their own long-term interests in the region. In Syria, a heinous dictatorship, one of the world’s worst, desperately fighting for its survival, is killing tens of thousands of its own citizens. While the Western reaction has been fainthearted, Russia and China have been outright obstructionist, blocking any effective measures in the Security Council or elsewhere. Indeed, Russia, as in many other cases, such as the international intervention in Libya, appears far more intent on pursuing its own misguided crusade to stymie American influence around the world, than in resolving the issue. Russia is interested in preserving its one remaining foreign naval port, in Tartus, Syria, and Damascus remains one of the few remaining clients for Russian arms. Russia’s support for the regime, however, along with Iran and Hezbollah, places it among Syria’s few remaining friends, hardly a prestigious club, and has already likely begun turning Arab opinion against it.With the Syrian regime’s demise most probably simply a matter of time, and an Arab world in which citizens are increasingly empowered and determined to settle accounts with their malefactors, Russia’s standing in the region will likely be undermined considerably. Signs are already apparent. China, as part of its traditional reluctance to intervene in the internal affairs of foreign countries, has been less directly involved, but it, too, will be remembered poorly by the people in the region for its negative role in the Security Council. There is a point at which non-interference becomes complicity in mass murder. On Iran, both Russia and China have blocked effective action in the Security Council, leading to the adoption of punishing extra-UN sanctions by the U.S. and EU, which were recently strengthened. By refusing to act responsibly, both nations have forced the West to act independently, the opposite of what they intended. They now risk creating a situation, following the American elections, in which the new president may seek to pursue direct negotiations with the Iranians, no longer as a part of the P5+1, of which Russia and China were members (along with the U.S., France, Britain and Germany), which has served in recent years as the coordinating forum for action on Iran. Should sanctions and these potential talks fail, Russian and Chinese obstructionism will have increased the prospects of military action against Iran. Both Russia and China profess publicly, and one can presume this to be sincerely, if superficially true, that they oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, but neither has been willing to back up this declaratory policy with concrete action. Russia has once again given precedence to its policy of thwarting the U.S. wherever possible, over the dire dangers of protecting regional and international security from the threat of a nuclear Iran. Apparently motivated by the feeling that a nuclear Iran, although an unwelcome development, would not actually pose a direct threat to any vital Russian interests, Moscow seeks to ensure that Iran remains a primary market for Russian arms sales and additional nuclear reactors, as well as a focus of its challenge to U.S. preeminence. China, for its part, continues to pursue an entirely mercantilist approach to foreign policy, certainly in the Middle East, which is based on three elements: selling everything it possibly can to anyone willing to buy,buying and investing in energy sources wherever possible, especially the Middle East, and asking no questions regarding its trading partners. For China, this is a long-standing policy and one which also reflects its reluctance to get involved in the domestic affairs of other countries, horrific though their practices may be. China is thus buying prodigious quantities of oil from Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, and investing in various countries throughout the region, without heed to the socio-economic and political trends underway. There is little doubt, however, that the regional population will remember China’s indifference to their plight and that the Sunni regimes, deeply fearful of Iran’s nuclear program, will remember its obstructionist role in the Security Council. China, a great power in the making, and Russia, a fading but nonetheless aspiring power, have repeatedly positioned themselves on “the wrong side of history” in regard to the Iranian nuclear program, events in Syria, and more. Great power status confers not just prestige and influence, but also a need to share responsibility for international security and the “global good.” With their uncaring pursuit of narrow national interests, neither is demonstrating a predilection to do so. It is time for a change in policy. The Diplomat

Air strike successfully kills 18 militants

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Ten militants were killed when helicopter gunships targeted their hideouts in Bara area of Khyber Agency on Monday, official sources said. The air strikes were carried out in Nala Malikdinkhel where a large number of militants were holed up, the sources said. The militants had fled the Akkakhel area a week ago and moved to Nala Malikdinkhel. Three hideouts were destroyed in the strikes. The sources said that bodies of six militants were found from Nala Khwarh. However, local people said that only one suspected militant, Saidullah Kamarkhel, was killed in the helicopter attack. They said most of the militants had left the area much before the air strikes were conducted. Three soldiers were killed when militants attacked their convoy in Nala area. No official details were available about the assault. The militants, however, claimed to be in possession of the soldiers’ bodies. Soon after the attack, Shalobar, Qambarkhel and parts of Malikdinkhel were placed under curfew.A search operation was conducted and artillery targeted militant positions in Shalobar, Arjali Nafi and Malikdinkhel. Three people were injured when a mortar shell landed in a house in Mandi Kas area. The house belongs to Sial Khan alias Sailak. Troops demolished houses of three militant ‘commanders’ Rakhman Shah, Ayub and Gulabat Khan in Shalobar area. They were believed to be associated with Lashkar-i-Islam and hiding since a military operation started in the area in Sept 2009. It is learnt that dozens of families who had come to Shalobar and adjoining areas from different towns to celebrate Eid with their relatives are now stranded there due to the curfew and intense artillery shelling. Meanwhile, eight militants were killed and a security official was injured in a clash in Mamozai area in upper Orakzai on Monday. Officials said the militants attacked a patrol wounding a soldier. In retaliatory fire by the troops, eight militants were killed. The bullet-riddled body of a security official was found in the Sheikhan area. Troops took the body to the Orakzai Agency headquarters Kalaya. The militants kidnapped four tribesmen in Sheikhan area, identified as Feroz, Shah Hasan, Dilawar and Ahmad. Dawn News

China concurs with Pakistan’s policy on US drone strikes

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Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Zhao Qizheng has said that China supports Pakistani policy pertaining to US drone strikes. Talking to media in Islamabad on Monday, he said that it was essential for global peace that all the countries respect each others’ integrity and sovereignty. China could help Pakistan in wind power energy and hydro power energy to overcome ongoing energy crisis in the country, he stated. Qizheng also stated that laws should be more strict to get nuclear. Pakistan Today

Why Netanyahu is ‘all rhetoric, no action’

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An Israeli attack is risky–and it might not even eliminate Iran’s nuclear facilities. During the Napoleonic Wars, when it was reported that the French were preparing to invade England, Admiral John Jervis said “I do not say they the French cannot come–I only say they cannot come by sea.” Barring the movement of a regiment of sans culottes across the English Channel by a fleet of Montgolfier balloons, the Jervis comment pretty much summed up the limits to French ambitions as long as Britannia ruled the waves. A similar bit of military overreach appears to be surrounding the alleged planning by the Israelis to stage an air assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US media and even some Pentagon spokesmen have suggested that Israel cannot do the job alone, but the problem is much larger than that, leading to the question whether Israel can do it at all. Israel has over 400 fighters, but many of them are configured to establish air superiority over an opponent by shooting down opposing aircraft and disabling air defense facilities on the ground. They are fighters supporting ground operations first with a limited secondary capability as bombers. Israel has no dedicated bomber force but it does have an estimated 125 advanced F-15I and F-16I’s, which have been further enhanced through special avionics installed by the Israel Aircraft Industry to improve performance over the types of terrain and weather conditions prevailing in the Middle East. The planes are able to fly long range missions and very capable in a bombing role but they do have their limitations. It is generally agreed that any attempt to destroy the hardened and well-defended Iranian nuclear sites would require use of the United States-provided GBU-28, a five thousand-pound laser-guided smart bomb that can be directed to the target. The GBU-28 is regarded as accurate and able to penetrate deep into a target, which is why it has been described as the “bunker buster.” Exact performance specifications of the weapon are classified, but it is believed to be able to penetrate twenty feet of reinforced concrete. Whether that would be enough to take out the expected Iranian targets at the research centers in Natanz and Fordow, the heavy water facility at Arak, and the operating reactor at Bushehr is unknown and some analysts have opined that it might require multiple hits on the same spot to do the job. As Bushehr, the most accessible target of the three, is an active reactor, an attack would release considerable contamination. Assuming that the US has supplied Israel with a sufficient supply of GBU-28s to go around to all the available aircraft, there remain two additional problems with the weapon that impact Israeli ability to stage an attack. First, it is so heavy that only Israel’s twenty-five F15Is are able to carry it, one bomb for each plane. For optimum use against a target, the GBU-28 also requires a clear line of sight, which means that the plane has to be flying low and relatively slowly, making the fighters more vulnerable to ground defenses, particularly with their maneuverability limited due to the bomb load. This first problem creates the second problem, which is that an attack will require a separate fleet of F-16 fighters unencumbered by GBU-28s to go in first and suppress the defensive fire, further complicating the mission. Assuming that all the Israeli fighters capable of carrying the GBU-28 are available, which would not normally be the case, twenty-five bombs might not be enough to do critical damage to the targets. Perfect intelligence is required to place the bombs where they will do the most harm, an element that will likely be lacking with the underground targets. Some bombs will miss while others might not function perfectly and will detonate before penetration. And before the bombs are dropped the planes have to arrive over Iran. Let’s assume that the Israelis opt for an attacking force of 50 fighters, one third of which would be designated for suppression of ground fire. The planes would be equipped with conformal fuel tanks built into the fuselages for extended range. They would also have auxiliary tanks that could be jettisoned when empty. Nevertheless, the attacking force would have to take off from Israeli airfields and then almost immediately refuel either over Israel or above the Mediterranean because fighters burn considerable fuel in getting off the ground. Refueling from Israel’s twelve modified Boeing 707 and C-130 tankers would take some time even though a plane using a flying boom for refueling can top up in thirty seconds. It is the maneuvering and connecting to enable the refueling that takes considerably longer. Refueling all 50 planes will be a major task essential to the success of the mission and while the planes are in the air and forming up they will be detected by radar in Egypt and Lebanon, information that one must assume is likely to be shared with Iran. The objectives in Iran are more than 1,000 miles from Israel and the planes must be able to spend some time over their targets, which is why the refueling is necessary. But even then there would be problems if the Israeli jets have to engage any enemy planes either en route or over Iran. They would have to drop their auxiliary tanks to take defensive action and would probably have to return immediately to Israel. There are three possible routes to Iran. One route to the south violates Saudi airspace and it is by no means certain that the very capable 80 plus F-15s of the Saudi Air Force would not scramble to intercept. The other is to the north over Syria, skirting the Turkish border. Syria is unlikely to be able to interfere much given its current troubles though it does possess some capable Russian made anti-aircraft missiles, but a Turkish response to possible airspace violations cannot be ruled out. The third and most likely option is to fly along Syria’s southern border, avoiding Jordan, and then through Iraq, which has only limited air defense capabilities since the US military’s departure at the end of 2011. Israel’s previous attacks on nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria hit targets that were above ground while relying on the element of complete surprise. Upon arrival over Iran, the Israelis would be confronted by something quite different, targets that are deep underground or hardened with reinforced concrete and further protected by layers of ground defenses that will be alert and waiting. Iran is known to have batteries of Russian supplied SA-5s for high altitude targets and SA-15s for lower level attackers. Both systems are regarded as very effective. It has also been alleged that Tehran has been able to acquire advanced Russian S-300 long range missiles, which, if true, would pose a serious problem for the Israeli fighters. The Israelis would have to be very lucky to avoid losses. Assuming that the Israeli Air Force is able to carry out the refueling, fly successfully to Iran, suppress ground defenses, and carry out its bombing, it still has to return home, again flying over Iraq with every air force and air defense battery in the region on full alert. Depending on how much maneuvering was required while over Iran, some planes might well need to be refueled again which would mean deploying highly vulnerable tankers over Iraq or Jordan. Back at home the Israelis would have to expect volleys of missiles of all kinds and varieties launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate for the attack. The US-funded Iron Dome defense missile system would intercept many of the incoming missiles, but some would certainly get through and Israeli civilian casualties could be high. It is clear that staging the attack on Iran would be fraught with difficulties and intelligence estimates suggest that at best the bombing would set back the Iranian ability to construct a weapon by only a year or two. Plus the attack would make certain that Iran would pursue a weapon, if only for self-defense, an essentially political decision that has not yet been made by the country’s leadership. Israel has other military assets–including ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles–that could be used to attack Iran, that would invite retaliation from Iran’s own ballistic and cruise missiles, considerably complicating post-attack developments. There is also the Israeli nuclear weapons capability, use of which would invite worldwide condemnation and instantly escalate the fighting into a regional or even broader conflict. On balance, all of the above suggests that the frequently repeated threat by the Israeli leadership to attack Iran is not a serious plan to take out Iran’s nuclear sites. It is more likely a long running disinformation operation to somehow convince the United States to do the job or a deliberate conditioning of the Israeli and US publics to be supportive if some incident can be arranged to trigger an armed conflict. If one believes the two presidential candidates based on what they said in Monday’s debate, both have more-or-less conceded the point, agreeing that they would support militarily any Israeli attack on Iran. Whether Romney or Obama is actually willing to start a major new war in the Middle East is, of course, impossible to discern. By PHILIP GIRALDI The American Conservative Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

The Iranian Nuclear Program: Timelines, Data, and Estimates

Posted by Admin On Monday, 29 October 2012 0 comments

This assessment is version 4.1 of a recurring analysis of Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Iran can produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material faster than it likely can deploy a functioning nuclear device. Tracking Iran’s uranium enrichment activities now addresses only Iran’s intentions and the size of its projected arsenal.
  • Obtaining fissile material in the form of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium is the most technically demanding step in acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Designing an explosive device (which consists of non-nuclear components) and a delivery system for the device are comparatively less technically challenging. Those efforts can also proceed parallel to enrichment.
  • Iran has the infrastructure and material to produce weapons-grade uranium. It has enough enriched uranium to produce fuel for five nuclear weapons after conversion to weapons-grade. Its expanding enrichment activities have significantly reduced the time required for it to produce weapons-grade uranium. The key accelerants for this shrinking timeline have been its growing stockpiles of low- and medium-enriched uranium, which is 90% of the way to weapons-grade, and an increasing number of centrifuges enriching.
Nuclear Program Expansion
  • Iran has installed many more centrifuges at the hardened Fordow facility than are now actually spinning, providing a reserve and/or surge capacity that will be difficult for Israel to destroy.
  • The recent installation of 1,076 additional centrifuges at Fordow has more than doubled capacity at that facility. 
  • Iran’s uranium enrichment is at historically high rates despite increasing sanctions and damage to the Iranian economy.
  • Iran will likely have enough near-20% enriched uranium to rapidly produce fissile material for 2 nuclear weapons by late 2013/early 2014. 
  • Iran recently told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it plans to begin operating the Arak heavy water reactor in Q3 2013. This reactor will be capable of producing two warheads’ worth weapons-grade plutonium per year once operational.
Breakout Timelines
  • Iran needs 3.7 MONTHS to produce 25 kg of weapons-grade uranium and 1.9 MONTHS to produce 15 kg weapons-grade uranium at the buried Fordow and pilot Natanz enrichment facilities.* It can cut these times significantly using the newly installed centrifuges at Fordow. 
  • Iran needs 0.8-2.2 MONTHS to produce 25 kg weapons-grade uranium and 1-4 WEEKS to produce 15 kg weapons-grade uranium at the main Natanz enrichment facility.* The higher end of the range accounts for a three-step conversion process.
  • The existence of undeclared (covert) enrichment sites would have a significant impact on breakout estimates.
  • Estimates of the time Iran needs to build a nuclear device to use this fissile material are all longer than these timelines.
  • Evidence of significant Iranian enrichment beyond 20% will strongly suggest not only that the decision to weaponize has been made, but also that the Iranians believe that they will shortly have a viable warhead in which to place weapons-grade uranium.
*Estimates assume Natanz and Fordow are used with the operational capacity reflected in the August 2012 IAEA report. Iran may need 15-25 kg weapons-grade uranium for an implosion-type bomb design depending on its level of technical ability (high technical ability would require less material). 
This product is an exposition of the technical data contained in numerous International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports informed by the discussions of experts in the field of nuclear proliferation. It is a work in progress in that it will be revised continuously based on new information from the IAEA reports and other sources and on feedback from readers. We welcome your informed commentary on the technical considerations presented in this document. Please send your comments, with references to source-date or documentation, to

A soldier’s Eid: Away from family and in the face of death

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 27 October 2012 0 comments
I am Gunner Fazal Mehmood, currently serving in a medium regiment artillery located at in a peaceful location. It is 0400 hours, the first day of Eidul Azha and while lying on my charpoy I am thinking about the last night – it is the third consecutive Eid that I will be spending away from my family. I don’t know why, but I am constantly reminded of a similar chaand raat which I had spent along with my family back in Bahawalpur a few years ago. All the luminosity, crowd and chanting at the Meena bazaar near our house constantly reminded me of my baby girl‘s face which was so cheerful because she was to wear her new cloths on Eid which I had bought her. I also remember going to the bazaar with my family to get my wife’s palms henna-stained and fetch the last minute make-up items. I have always been annoyed by these last minute touch ups our ladies have gotten so used to. Apparently when they have already bought everything they are to adorn on Eid, I fail to understand why there still is a persistent moaning. They say things like: “Hey, I forgot to get a new hairband for Aisha.” “Oho, mujhy tu abhi yaad aya hai, dupatay ki peeko tu karwaye he nahi.” (Oh, I just recalled, I had to get my dupatta stitched.) “Sirf 10 minute lagay gain, bus matching chooriyan laini hain.” (Just ten more minutes, I need to get matching bangles.) All I end up saying is: “Okay, I’ll take you, but what exactly were you doing for last seven days when I have been taking you out on my motorcycle?” Now I guess it probably had to something with the sheer joy of spending time together, rather than actually purchasing the items. I think it is this feeling that haunts me right now. The army has done a good job at letting our families feel the same way by arranging Meena bazaars and chand raat shows inside the cantonments. I believe fauji chand raats are better than the others. You get most of the edibles for free (though officers have to pay for them). Bangles, henna, and other related stuff is cheaper – thanks to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) and the Commanding Officer (CO) sahib for subsidising them. Just yesterday a retired colonel of my unit donated Rs50,000 as eidi to my unit. Most important of all, there are no oglers at loose. I didn’t get to enjoy chaand raat this time, since I was busy guarding the venue and other military installations (only family members are normally allowed). Anyways, as I yet have to shave, change, and reach the regiment fall-in due at 0500 hours, I must hurry. ———————————————————– At the fall-in, those ─ including myself ─ who were relieved from duty at 0200 hours the previous night, and thus according to Army’s calculations had received their night’s rest, replaced those who were on duty since 0400 hours (these guys might just be able to join Eid prayers). I was ordered to the guard the mosque when Eid prayers were to be held. After a quick breakfast, I reached my new place of duty, the outer cordon, and I found myself with this police chap whom, I know, also has a similar story to tell. After we had discussed our area of responsibility and took our posts, we were left with a gap of approximately 10 metres between us, which, of course didn’t deter us from developing a conversation. He told me how he was patrolling along with his DSP till four in the morning, and yet he is here guarding the mosque. Upon this I had nothing to say but praise the military’s system of man-management. Anyway, Eid was up and running when after the prayers everybody greeted each other. I did the same to the policeman with those 10 meters still between us, and then I was ordered straight to the ammunition bunkers. At the ammunition storage, I was scanning the horizon with my binoculars when I saw a military vehicle speeding towards me. “Aye tey CO saab da tota lagda aye!”, the other sentry announced. (It looks like CO’s Toyota RMR) “Look sharp, look sharp!” roared the NCO, as he sprung off his camp stool. Before I could settle my beret, the Jeep was on me. Out came my CO, carrying a colourful packet in his hands. Handing over the packet to the Non-commissioned Officer (NCO), he greeted Eid to all, gave us a small motivational lecture and passed some instructions to the NCO. While he was leaving for the next post, I was thinking about the sweets in the packet and feeling alive from the hug that I had just received from my commander – though for a short while, I was no more bothered by the thoughts of my family. ——————————————————– It was 1200 hours and I was finally back in my barrack preparing to attend the bara khaana (special lunch for occasions like Eid). This time I was off-duty and those who attended the Eid prayers stood sentry. I had adorned the white shalwar kameez my wife had sent me. These days you don’t get to watch TV that often since the army’s employment has increased manifold. Consequentially, while sitting inside the ante-room we were arguing over the channel to be viewed when someone announced that the Brigade Commander would be joining us at lunch – our unit was the farthest from his command and thus he had decided to spend his Eid with us. Man, this was my lucky day! Back at home we were in conflict with this guy and his sons over a small piece of land that belonged to us. When his threats failed to have the desired effects, he did what Pakistani villagers do ─ indicted my brother in a false FIR. The police had been bothering us since then. I had already posted my application to the Brigade Commander, but now I would be able to explain my case and hand him over the application in person. Rehearsing what I would be telling the commander, I was forced to think how many other institutions allow such easy access to senior when it comes to welfare. At the bara khaana most of the unit, including the officers, was present. The food was good and the casual chit chat with the officers reminded me once again that it was Eid. The Commander also gave eidi to the youngest soldier, which didn’t amuse me as I was still thinking about my family. After the lunch, I was back in uniform and ready to move out for firing practice, when we were told that it has been cancelled – after all it was Eid day! So I sank into my charpoy with my boots still on and drifted into thoughts. Staring at the wooden ceiling, I was arguing with myself about this Eid being better than the one when I was deployed at the border. There, things were not different than what I had done today, except that right after the morning fall-in, the observer reported about tank movement in our sector and I had to spend the rest of the Eid day manning my gun and preparing ammunition. It was not until the next morning that I was reminded that the day I had spent relaying my gun and cleaning grease over the rounds was Eid. Better still, at least this time around I was inside a cantonment where I saw real people enjoying the colours of Eid. Right about then I was reminded of my days in Special Services Group (SSG). Life was tougher and more unpredictable back then. I remembered the day General Headquarters (GHQ) was attacked. We were having tea break in the soldiers’ mess made, feasting on pakoras and namak paras when we were told of the attack. “You’ve got five minutes to get your gear and find me at the em-busing (the point were you get on the bus) point. Operation type will be room clearance (hostage rescue). Detailed orders en route!” announced our squad leader, as he sputtered out the piece of pakora that was bothering him during the phone call which informed him of the attack. Soon I was sitting behind that five-tonne Hino truck adjusting the sites of my modified SMG Chinese. I was aware that by the time this operation ends, some of us may not live to see the next day. Cognizant of the fact that the moment you kick that door and enter the terrorist stronghold, you will draw enemy fire in a fight that will only last for a split second, the enemy will have a room to displace itself, I on the other hand will be standing inside a 3-feet-wide door frame. It was then that I felt a sudden impulse to call my family; I wanted listen to my little angel’s voice once before I left her. Nah! You know you can’t do that. Instead, you think of your family and try to gather courage from the thought that you are doing it for them and many others like them. Next, you totally forget them and simply reject every other thought expect those involving your entry into the stronghold and the uncertainty and fog that shall follow it. That day, when the operation ended, two of my friends who were having pakoras with me a few hours ago, were resting in body bags; a few others were clinging to their lives at CMH Rawalpindi. But hey, we did rescue the hostages! Just about then came the rude awakening; I was to stand guard once this short lull is over and with this I snapped out of my reverie, my jaws clenched and fists tightened. We succeeded on October 10, 2009, but will I prevail again if I stand guard engrossed in my thoughts feeling dejected because my family is away on this Eid? What if I am yet again in a situation where I might not survive to see tomorrow? What if these thoughts instead of giving me strength became my weakness? Would I be able to play my part effectively before I breathe my last? What if I couldn’t do what I was trained for; am I burdening this nation so that I can whine over an Eid day? These questions gave me shivers. “No!” screamed my brain as I stood up with a pounding heart. This will never happen on my watch! I shall stand sentry with all the vigil I can gather with a unified aim in my mind that no chump can get past me without Gunner Fazal seriously interfering with his designs! For every possibility and any contingency that the enemy may throw at me, I must remain steadfast and should give my undivided attention to the task at hand. The thought that my family and yours enjoyed their Eid, is an Eid in itself for soldiers like me. This Eid and the others that soldiers like myself had spent away from their families is very small a price that we pay in return of the love and respect that we receive from you people, and the comfort we get in the thought that as we stand guard, other Pakistanis can treasure moments with their families. With this, I picked up my G-3 as the dusk marked the end of 1432nd Eidul Azha. While I checked my magazine for bullets I hear someone asking “Who are you?” As I walk towards my post, I murmured: “I am a proud son of the soil; I am a proud soldier of Pakistan Army!” 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.

Picking off an entire generation one by one

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 25 October 2012 0 comments
Drones. They are expensive, lethal, and precise in their killing; at least they are designed to be. A creation of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, they act as the new soldiers abroad, innately non-emotive machines asked to perform the previous duties of an army combatant more efficiently and free of the inhibitive emotional affects on human cognizance. They kill their enemies but also can miss their targets and a study released last month shows that they miss a lot. Months after researchers at the University of Texas-Austin successfully spoofed a drone into its own crash landing, proving the enormous security vulnerability of the aircraft, the study conducted by law professors at New York University and Stanford argues that American drones are killing civilians in Pakistan’s tribal regions and have had a “damaging and counterproductive effect” on the psyche and social welfare of residents there. Their claims are based on roughly 130 interviews with civilians living in the regions of Northern Pakistan where drone attacks are most frequent. The evidence, gathered with the financial and logistical support of the activist group Reprieveamongst others, directly challenges the Obama administration’s official line that targeted drone strikes aimed at suspected militants in Northwest Pakistan’s tribal regions are actually hitting their targets. According to data provided by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, cited in the study, between 2,593 and 3,373 people have been killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 and between 474 and 884 of those killed were civilians, a figure representing a possible 25 percent of all deaths. Neither camp in the U.S. presidential campaign has addressed the figures nor has the subject of drone attacks ever been addressed in either of the two presidential debates and there is little reason to believe it will be mentioned in Monday night’s debate on foreign policy. Libertarian-leaning members of the Republican Party, such as former presidential candidate Ron Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have pushed candidate, Mitt Romney, to address the issue in a critique of what they say are President Obama’s interventionist and illegal military policies abroad but Mr. Romney has not done so, possibly indicating his own support for continued use of drones under a Romney administration. President Obama has never publicly addressed the specifics of his administration’s covert drone war, using instead his chief intelligence advisor, John Brennan to introduce the program at high-profile talks at Ivy League institutions and policy conferences in Washington attempting to coax the nation’s intelligentsia and future elites into supporting the program as the nation’s best option to fight the “war on terror” without risking expensive and drawn out military assaults. To some extent, Mr. Brennan and the administration have been highly successful. A recent Pew research poll shows that 62% of Americans support drone attacks in Pakistan, even though data continues to prove they are highly volatile and a major contributor to rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, a key American ally in the region. But, despite what may appear as promising numbers for the administration, millions of Americans are still unaware of the existence of drones, or unmanned combat aerial vehicles, despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent over the last decade on research, production and perfection of these devices. It is not difficult to understand why. Besides only a recent surge in media coverage, the drone campaign, a Bush-era program that conjoins the nation’s intelligence and military departments from Langley to the Pentagon, has largely remained under the radar of the American public as a non-issue in this election year, where the economy’s tepid recovery continues to consume the airwaves and front pages. The tech magazine, Wired, produces a blog, Danger Room, on national security that regularly reports on drones and the coverage is comprehensive but the magazine’s relatively small niche audience does not constitute a large enough portion of the American electorate to spur a national dialogue on drones that could effectively pressure the Obama administration to answer some uncomfortable questions. The numbers published in the NYU/Stanford report are staggering but they go beyond the Excel spreadsheets on which they were gathered. They tell a greater and far more tragic story. Behind each statistic is a mother, father, son, daughter killed in the dead of night. Lives unjustly taken, dreams shattered. These communities are amongst the oldest inhabitants of Pakistan, having survived brutal British occupation and harsh living conditions in the country’s most remote areas. For centuries, these tribes have lived amidst the grandiose beauty of the mountainous Northern Highlands in relative isolation from the outside world but now, as Conor Friedersdorf wrote in the Atlantic last month when referencing the report, these residents go to bed each night under the constant sounds of American drones humming through the sky hoping and praying that they may not be the next target. The Obama doctrine, if it can be defined as such, has relied on stealth power and drones have been a central tenet of that policy. His administration has not shown any reservations about using them to advance American interests in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict-ridden states, from Pakistan to Yemen, but has refused to accept responsibility for when they fail. Because drones are not yet recognized under international law, mostly because the legal framework has not been revised since their creation less than a decade ago, the administration has been able to withstand criticisms from human rights groups in the United States and abroad. This is until the case of Noor Khan. An American drone strike killed his father and more than 40 others as they sat in a village council meeting in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province in March 2011. Only four of the 42 victims were confirmed members of the Pakistani Taliban while the remaining were innocent civilians who had gathered to mediate a mining conflict in Northern Waziristan. Khan’s family formally filed suit with the High Court of the country’s Peshawar province against the Pakistani government. The plaintiff calls for the government to “pursue and criminally charge” those, either inside or outside the country, involved. The legal basis for the case can be found in Article 9 of the country’s constitution that guarantees all citizens protection of their “life and liberty.” The court hearing is set for October 23 and, while few expect Islamabad to move forward with charges against the United States, the case could shape international law on the issue of drones, possibly — as the UN’s chief experts on extrajudicial killings have noted – classifying leaders who use them against innocent civilians against innocent civilians abroad as war criminals. Obama, the war criminal? By Daniel Medina Huffington Post


Let’s face the truth about Afghanistan

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More than 50 US and British soldiers have been killed by their Afghan partners this year. The attacks have been described as Taliban infiltration of the police, which could be addressed by better vetting. But the very words “Taliban”, “police”, and “vetting” are misleading. Insofar as it is possible to understand the motives of the attackers (almost all are killed immediately) it seems that only a quarter have any connection to the Taliban. The “police” in question are a hastily formed, poorly trained militia. Ninety-two out of 100 recruits in a Helmand unit I visited last year were unable to write their own name, or recognise numbers up to 10. Their five weeks of training amounted to little more than weapons-firing and basic literacy. Thirty per cent of recruits deserted that year. With up to 10,000 villagers recruited in a month, “vetting” was not a serious option. This gap between the language of policy makers and the reality is typical. It is time to be honest about Afghanistan: we face a desperate situation and an intolerable choice. If the US, Britain and their allies leave Afghanistan, there will be chaos and perhaps civil war. The economy will falter and the Afghan government will probably be unable to command the loyalty or support of its people. The Taliban could significantly strengthen their position in the south and east, and attack other areas. Powerful men, gorged on foreign money, extravagantly armed and connected to the deepest veins of corruption and gangsterism, will flex their muscles. For all these reasons departure will feel – rightly – like a betrayal of Afghans and of the soldiers who have died. But keeping foreign troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will not secure the country’s future either. Every year since 2004, generals and politicians have acknowledged a disastrous situation, produced a new strategy and demanded new resources. They have tried “ink-spots” and “development zones”; counterinsurgency and nation-building; partnering and mentoring; military surges, civilian surges and reconciliation. Generals and ministers called 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 “decisive” years in Afghanistan. None was. None will be. We may wonder why politicians and soldiers have insisted for so long that things are improving. We have been isolated from Afghan reality, and obsessed with misleading jargon. But it is not all the west’s fault. Afghanistan is poor, fragmented and traumatised; and blame should also be put on the Afghan government and on neighbours such as Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of brains and hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested over a decade in understanding failure, without overcoming it. The culture and behaviour of foreign troops, diplomats, Afghans, the Kabul government and Pakistan are not likely to change in the next two years. What we have seen is roughly what we will get. In the absence of “victory”, three alternative strategies have been proposed: training the Afghan security forces, political settlement with the Taliban and a regional solution. But training Afghan forces, which cost $12bn in 2010 alone, will not guarantee their future loyalty to a Kabul government. Two years and many regional conferences have passed since the formation of the Afghan Higher Peace council, and the clear Nato endorsement of reconciliation: but there is no sign that insurgents, the Kabul government or its neighbours will reach a deal, or feel much desire so to do. So there is no military solution, and no political solution either. Nor will there be before the troops leave. We will have to deal for decades with a troubled Afghanistan, which is not likely in my lifetime to be as wealthy as Libya, as effectively governed as Iraq, as educated as Syria, or as institutionally mature as Pakistan. What then? The point is not what the US and its allies ought to do but what they can. We have reached the limit of our knowledge, power and legitimacy. Whatever the west feels obliged to do, it is not capable of bringing a political or military solution. That task will be for Afghans. The west should continue financial support, so the Kabul government does not collapse, as it did in 1991, and give enough military support – air power in nearby bases, for example – to prevent the Taliban mobilising tanks and aircraft, as they did in 1995. But this is support, not a solution. Honesty about this will be the start of better policy. In the best case, removing almost 200,000 foreign soldiers and civilian contractors may force the Afghan government to assume responsibility; allow the insurgents and neighbours to recognise their relative weaknesses; and provide a basis for a political solution. I believe Afghans can find such a thing. But it is not certain. What is certain is that foreigners haven’t, and now can’t. The writer is a Conservative member of the UK parliament and author of ‘Can Intervention Work?’ Financial Times


Feeding revolutions

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[Editor's note: Professor Srinivasan will be discussing the issues raised in this article on The Stream @19h30 GMT on Monday 29, October. He will be intermittently joining the discussion in the comments section at the bottom of the article.] The Internet can make that which is on the opposite end of the world seem very local. Yet this can both distort or amplify reality. For example, while the recent “Innocence of Muslims” video served as a catalyst for the dissatisfaction felt toward the lack of Western support toward the Arab world, the protests and riots would not have occurred without YouTube and Vimeo. The ways by which newer and older media come together can turn slander into reality, changing what counts as truth in today’s world. This raises a key question: Have the revolutions of the Arab Spring done more for social media than vice versa? After two years of fieldwork in Egypt, I have learned the ‘digital war’ is here to stay in Egypt. From 70+ year old military generals’ use of Facebook to release announcement, to the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of hackers, leaders from the entire range of Egypt’s political factions are striving for the upper hand in this fight. We may forever debate the importance of social media in the uprisings of 2011 in the Arab world’s most populous nation. Some argue that social media empowered activists to coordinate and communicate the actions that sparked the revolt. Others, in contrast, argue that social media was a double-edged sword, and in some cases prevented activists from directly confronting the old regime. Skeptics point out that regimes are effective at using technologies to spy and subvert, citing Iran’s Green Revolution of 2009. Further, they argue that less than 5% of Egyptians use Facebook and/or Twitter. ‘Hiding behind one’s laptop’ or ‘being an IPad activist’ are the types of pejorative statements I hear in my interviews with activists and organizers over the past two years. I have also noted that a reliance on social media technologies often makes ‘real’ that which may not exist for most or any, as was the case with the “Innocence of Muslims” video. Those popular on Twitter to speak about Egypt for example may not even be in Egypt, yet are often widely re-tweeted and used as sources by some journalists, given the 24 hour news-cycle. Scholars and critics understand that revolutions happen in waves, and that at certain early stages social media technologies play a more salient role. How do we step away from these binaries? By looking at Egyptians today. Unlike what we hear from most Western media, social media technologies are no longer the domain of solely the left, liberal youth, but instead empower different agendas held by parties across the political map. More than ever, many realize that via social media they have an opportunity to shape the political future of a nation in a way they never have before. This does not mean that their ‘digital actions’ substitute for their physical ones – but that instead they work in tandem, and are used to reach diverse audiences. Social media, perhaps thanks to the international and domestic hype, has a cache in Egypt that it did not have before the events of 2011. These technologies, seen as modern and ‘liberating, have been embraced by many throughout Egypt’s population, including by those without a computer or Internet access. How has technology changed power in Egypt? I believe in four major ways:
1. Infiltrating the media elites: Egyptians recognise that ‘older media’, such as television and radio, though accessed by most, tend to be biased. Still State TV, run by the ruling military, remains most popular, and domestic corporate media channels are self-serving and volatile in their coverage. Yet activists have explained to me that they can influence some of these media from the ‘outside in’ by documenting videos of protests, creating credible blogs, and tweeting stories to influence both international and domestic journalists. I saw these strategies in action in July, 2012 at a recent 23000+ person sit-in in Mahalla, the birthplace of Egypt’s labour movement. While this protest was sparsely reported on by the mainstream media, I observed how activists were using video cameras, blogs, and Facebook/Twitter connections to force this coverage from the outside-in. These forces can potentially bring new voices into the mainstream media culture. Listening Post – Egypt: Revolution revisited 2. Who needs Internet access?: Though more Egyptians than ever have begun to access the Internet particularly after last year’s uprising, activists have realised that they can shape power and their perception within working class communities without an Internet connection. Media activist collective Mosireen, for example, uses low-cost video cameras and projectors to train community members throughout the nation to document military abuses and project these videos on walls within their own communities, in a project called Askar Kazeboon (aka; ‘The Military Are Liars’). Realising that they can make a difference as a media arm to various progressive and leftist issue-driven campaigns, Mosireen has used tactics of media production and distribution to disrupt false propaganda, fight against military trials, and promote living wages and rights to housing. While these are issue-driven rather than parliamentary or presidential ones, they speak to the use of social media to affect to short-term profound changes. Tools of telling and distributing stories are in the hands of local communities. 3. Linking the Street and Digital Worlds: Despite being seen by one leader I met as a ‘sissy man’s game’, the Muslim Brotherhood has begun to enhance its social media presence via Twitter and its websites. The Brotherhood see their power in their ability to ‘work the street’ and organise via Mosques throughout the nation. Yet they also realise that their media presence is seen as archaic, and that their international reputation is now increasingly important with the election of President Mohammed Morsi. Brotherhood members have begun to embrace tools of outreach to engage with domestic and international audiences, building diplomatic connections, and hoping to influence older mainstream media. 4. We need new tools: “We were the kings of social media, and now our enemies are catching up with us.” With these words, Ahmed Maher, 2011 revolutionary hero and co-founder of the April 6th Youth Movement, explained to me that today’s battle for political power has two-fronts. While liberal and leftist parties need to gain more power in the street to catch up with a 50+ year military regime and 80 year Muslim Brotherhood, they also need to discover new tools that can continue to influence the political environment. Blogger and activist Hossam Hamalawy of the Revolutionary Socialists, for example, explained to me an effective website could serve as a real-time organiser for the labour leaders his party is starting to network across the country, and thus make possible more powerful strikes and future uprisings. What for Lenin was the newspaper could be a website for Hamalawy. And a website’s ability to connect leaders real-time could shape the power of a movement. Activists and politicians in today’s Egypt have now fully embraced the tools of social media not just to support the creation of political capital but also to subvert the competition. Technologies to spy, hack, and leak are all part of the environment, and all actively used by the different political activists with which I spoke. The all too easy narrative that liberal/leftist youth and their technologies are out of the game simply doesn’t stand up to reality. Instead activists understand that their longer and shorter term strategies must both exist, and that they must engage the digital and physical worlds to achieve their goals. I have never been in a nation where Marxism, Islamism and militaristic authoritarianism are on as many people’s lips at the same time. All these destinies and futures are possible, and are all being contested in the public sphere, which increasingly is intertwined with new digital technologies. As one friend, a cab-driver from inner-city Cairo neighbourhood Imbebba told me, “We will watch, listen, and if we do not like what we see – we will rise again.” Ramesh Srinivasan is an Associate Professor in Media/Information Studies at UCLA. He has given several major invited talks, including recently at LIFT in 2009 ( He holds an engineering degree from Stanford, a Masters degree from the MIT Media Lab, and a Doctorate from Harvard University. You can follow Ramesh on twitter @rameshmedia The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. Aljazeera


Who will be India’s new intelligence chiefs?

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The Indian government has an onerous task on its hands: to name new chiefs to its three premier Central agencies –Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The government is likely to announce the appointments very soon. RAW is India’s external intelligence agency, not unlike the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), albeit the CIA has far more power, funds and personnel at its disposal. IB is India’s internal intelligence agency, while the CBI is an investigative agency. In many ways, IB and the CBI combines the responsibilities and duties of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S. The importance of these three agencies for the Indian government cannot be overstated. RAW and IB have a direct bearing on Indian national security. Their professional rivalries are legendary and they often times resisting sharing intelligence with each other. In fact, this debilitating factor was criticized at length by the Kargil Review Committee, headed by the late K Subrahmanyam, which was set after the 1999 Kargil War. In contrast to the secrecy that pervades RAQ and IB, the CBI has been a very visible public presence. Because the CBI, unlike RAW and IB, is a prosecuting agency, it has to maintain a public profile through such activities as holding regular media briefings. There is another important difference between the CBI on the one hand and RAW and IB on the other. The CBI is a politically-loaded agency and is often seen as a tool of government in power, much to the disdain of the opposition parties. The CBI’s political clout has increased enormously over the years, particularly in the current tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The UPA II has witnessed some high-profile scams like 2G telecom auctions, massive financial irregularities concerning theCommonwealth Games at Delhi and the coal blocks auction scam, popularly referred to in India as Coalgate. Sitting ministers, members of parliament, political leaders and corporate supports have been fingered in these scams which are investigated by the CBI. However, recently activist Indian courts, led by the Supreme Court, have been monitoring several important cases being investigated by the CBI. This has strengthened the CBI’s autonomy from the sitting government as the agency has been directed to give regular status reports to the courts directly. The current chiefs of RAW, IB and CBI – Sanjeev Tripathi, Nehchal Sandhu and Amar Pratap Singh respectively – are all set to retire by the end of the year. Of the three officers, IB’s Sandhu appears to be the only one who is likely to get an extension and even this will only be for three months. Sandhu’s stock is the highest among these officers. His prominence rose sharply after Saudi Arabia deported the terrorist leader, Abu Jundal, in June of this year, which gave India more leverage in dealing with Pakistan. Sandhu’s possible successors include both of the current Special Directors: Ram Niwas Gupta, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from Himachal Pradesh or Yashovardhan Azad, another IPS officer. The most likely candidate to succeed the current RAW Chief is Alok Joshi. Of the three agencies which are going to see changes at the top, RAW is the only one where the succession process appears to be smooth and hassle-free. Joshi’s resume has one especially noteworthy qualification for the Manmohan Singh government—he previously served as the RAW station head in Nepal, an important country for any Indian government. There are many individuals contending for the post of CBI Chief. These include Ranjit Sinha, currently the head of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), CBI special director VK Gupta and National Investigation Agency (NIA) chief SC Sinha. The present incumbent, AP Singh, may get a lucrative post-retirement assignment if he is called upon to head the soon-to-be-created investigation wing of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Singh’s seen as extremely qualified for this position because he has handled a large number of high-profile cases like 2G, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate and Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, ever since he took over as the CBI chief in November 2010. During this time he has also helped improve the CBI’s conviction rate. The Daiplomat


Spoilt rotten:Sayeen tau Sayeen,Sayeen ki beti bhe Sayeen

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After 64 years of independence,the majority of Pakistanis are still living under the weight of oppression and inequality. A traffic violation,robbery or even a murder case is hardly different in the eyes of the law. In Pakistan,the discerning factor is the status of the plaintiff or the defense,not the severity of the crime. More often than not,the law sides with the more powerful party. Last week,the nation witnessed another proof of this situation when CM Punjab’s daughter was seen using unnecessary measures to acquire a cake from a bakery in Lahore. Irfan,an employee of the bakery,was beaten and kidnapped later that evening by the Elite Police Force personnel under the orders of CM’s son-in-law,Ali Imran. It was highly appalling to see Elite Forces personnel to be bystanders and even worse,perpetrators to the crime of torture and kidnapping of an innocent citizen. The police are meant to protect and serve the people but like many another things in Pakistan,the role of the police is far from clear. Police forces have been used for quite some time for carrying out the dirty work of politicians. Fear of hostile repercussions to oneself and one’s family have prevented law-abiding citizens from standing up to this abuse of authority. While it is understandable to provide special security to top politicians like the chief minister,it is certainly not appropriate to use tax payers’ money to provide security to the son-in-law of the CM. This case of affliction took place on October 7th but it wasn’t until the social media picked it up that the public came to know about this. An FIR was then registered under Section 148,149 and 506 for simple conflicts against Ali Imran and 8 of his guards on October 15th,a whole week later. PML-N was unable to provide a reason for this lag in justice. Instead,they chose to highlight the CM’s response of permitting an investigation into his son-in-law,who is said to have presented himself to the police. Ali Imran was subsequently arrested under Section 109 even though lawyers believe it should have been under Section 367 since torture and kidnapping was involved. When the case was presented in court,the magistrate sent Imran to jail on a 14 day judicial remand. According to his legal counsel,Imran did not send his guards against the bakery employee. Since this fact was proved by the investigative report,Imran’s counsel requested for bail for his client. It is interesting to keep in mind that the guards are said to have changed their statement,now claiming that the attack was due to a personal feud between Zafar Hussain (guard) and Irfan. At the same time,some PML-N leaders claimed that the guards acted in their own accord when Irfan allegedly misbehaved with daughter of the CM. In other words,the idea of engagement was entirely that of the guards. Despite these conflicting statements,which are reason enough to consider a cover up,the magistrate decided to allow a bail request for Imran. Sadly,there was no legal representation to protect the rights of Irfan. It was the state’s responsibility to provide a lawyer for him if he could not afford one. Instead of letting the case take its course through the normal legal process,efforts to bypass it are being suspected. Reports claim that the bakery owner refuses to give a public statement and asserts that the matter has been resolved internally. The state must compensate Irfan for the mental and psychological trauma that he had to face in doing honest work. Otherwise,there is a risk that this trauma could transform into a deep resentment against the rich and powerful which could one day become uncontrollable in the form of extremists,criminals and sociopaths. The CM’s family is not the only one enjoying privileges and exemptions from the law. Former prime minister Gilani’s sons,for instance,had serious corruption cases registered against them but so far they haven’t been convicted. CDA Chief’s son assaulted a mother and her son for merely blocking his path but no one dared to stop him. The feudal mentality that pervades in our leaders serves their interest at the cost of public development and advancement. Perhaps this is why infrastructure development is dominant in the home cities of the leaders while other cities remain neglected. Public schools and hospitals suffer from a similar fate since these are not used by the rulers themselves. Our Civil Society must engage in efforts to create realization and awareness regarding human dignity and honor. It should fight for the rights of the underprivileged members of our society. The lawyers who were so vocal at various stages of political movements should also speak for people like Irfan who got humiliated by the CM’s son in law. This time it was Irfan a bakery employee…next time it could be anyone of us!

One activist is organising Mumbai’s slum-dwellers as they face eviction to make way for upmarket developments. Simpreet Singh is facing the fight of his life as he tries to stop...

One activist is organising Mumbai’s slum-dwellers as they face eviction to make way for upmarket developments.
Simpreet Singh is facing the fight of his life as he tries to stop businesses and the Indian government from evicting Mumbai slum dwellers from their homes in order to build luxury apartments on the land where they currently reside.
The slum-dwellers of Mumbai are being evicted – in many cases unfairly – to make way for upmarket developments. And Simpreet is fighting to stop these land grabs.
He is organising resistance, using India’s Right to Information laws, and mapping the slums in his fight for justice for the slum-dwellers – who constitute 60 per cent of Mumbai’s population yet occupy only seven per cent of the city’s land.
It is a city rife with land scams, where evictions are commonplace and new developments regularly appear – including the Oceans of Justice, a housing complex for High Court judges built on land meant for the homeless.
The next slum re-development scam is about to take place. Simpreet knows a demolition is scheduled even though the residents have not given their consent.
Officially the slum-dwellers are given 24 hours’ notice before their homes are destroyed. Simpreet rallies the inhabitants to resist the demolitions.
You can watch this episode of Activate from Monday, October 22, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630; Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630.
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