Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bracing for a possible Taliban victory....?

The worsening Afghan war has brought some good news for Uzbekistan. On Tuesday, the European Union announced it was lifting a four-year old arms embargo against Uzbekistan. The EU imposed wide-ranging sanctions in 2005 after Uzbek troops fired on civilians during an uprising in the city of Andizhan in Ferghana Valley, and Tashkent rejected calls by Western countries for an international inquiry into those killings....

Tuesday's decision completes an incremental process stretched over the past year or so on the EU's part to kiss and make up with Tashkent. The EU officials justified their decision with Tashkent's recently release of some political prisoners and abolishment of the death penalty. Amnesty International has promptly contradicted the claim with facts and figures.

Aside from the veracity of the EU claim, the reality is that Europe not only blinked first, it also bent its knees while doing so. Brussels kept a straight face, though, assuring the world audience that it would "closely and continuously observe the human-rights situation in Uzbekistan … [and] assess progress made by the Uzbek authorities."

No more 'regime change' …

All the same, the EU decision is a good thing. It underscores a new degree of realism often lacking in Western policy towards the strategic Central Asian region. The West has been far too prescriptive towards a region whose civilization dates back several centuries further than Europe's. Besides, the dogma regarding democracy and "regime change" was alien to the steppes and somewhat irrelevant at this point in time.

Are we seeing the end of the "regime change" ideology? The signals are tentative. Statements made by United States Vice President Joseph Biden during his tour this month of Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania, hark back to the former president George W Bush era. But then, Biden was grandstanding in front of people upset over President Barack Obama's reversal on the Anti-Ballistic Missile system deployment in Central Europe.

As one Moscow commentator put it, Biden's mission was to "provide comfort to the distressed ... to heal the wounds of upset allies", by explaining "that the US would abandon neither its defense commitments ... nor the strong friendship … there will just be a political order in which Russia's interests hold more weight than under the Bush administration".

Indeed, the first detailed articulation of the Obama administration's Central Asia policy, as available from the major speech made by the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns in Washington, DC, a fortnight ago, all but threw the "Great Central Asia strategy" that the Bush administration proclaimed out of the window. Burns's speech almost made Tuesday's decision on Uzbekistan at Brussels inevitable.

Burns paid no attention to "regime change" or democratization and instead the emphasis was on "a focus on mutual interests" with the Central Asian states "in a spirit of mutual respect, which means that we [the US] won't pretend to have a monopoly on wisdom, or seek to impose our system or to preach or patronize".

He explained this "blend of mutual interest and mutual respect" in terms of energy cooperation, increased trade and security ties and "practical cooperation" was based on the recognition that the countries of the region are "unique, independent, sovereign states, each with its own distinctive national cultures, experiences, people and economies".

All the same, Burns stressed the high priority the Obama administration attaches to the region and revealed that Washington has initiated "an effort to construct high-level mechanisms with each Central Asian country, featuring a structured, annual dialogue." True, he sidestepped Biden's combative tone toward Russia but then he implicitly suggested that the Obama administration wouldn't accept the thesis of "sphere of influence". Burns made not a single reference to Russia in his entire speech.

Arguably, therefore, the EU's decision on Uzbekistan has been taken in a holistic spirit taking into account many factors such as the Obama administration's new approach to the region, the promise of "reseting" US-Russia relations, energy security, trade and investment, and China's surge in Central Asia.

All the same, it should be traced first and foremost to the imperatives of the Afghan war, and only reminds us how far the war has transformed as a "bleeding wound" - to borrow former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev's unforgiving words.

... as Afghan war beckons

Germany took the initiative in Brussels to propel the EU toward full restoration of ties with Uzbekistan. Tashkent's goodwill has assumed the nature of a strategic asset for Berlin, given its heavy dependence on Uzbek transit facilities for ferrying supplies to the 4,500-strong German contingent deployed in the Amu Darya region in northern Afghanistan.

Termez port, on the Uzbek side, has become Germany's gateway to Afghanistan, and the Freedom Bridge built by the Soviets across the Amu Darya connecting the Afghan port of Heiraton is today the vital lifeline for the Bundeswehr contingents.

No doubt, Uzbekistan's strategic importance has risen manifold for the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as a northern supply route for Afghanistan takes shape. Although Uzbekistan has only a relatively short border with Afghanistan (in comparison with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan), logistically its terrain offers the most convenient entry point to the nation. These considerations weighed heavily in the German mind when it encouraged Washington to painstakingly rebuild its own ties with Tashkent, while taking the initiative on lifting the EU sanctions.

The fact that EU was making an exception that it isn't ready to contemplate yet for China should drive home the fact that the Afghan war is hitting the European capitals where it hurts.

The EU decision comes at a time when alarm bells are beginning to ring in the Central Asian capitals regarding the spillover of the Afghan war to the region, which seems all but certain. The Taliban are strengthening their presence in northern Afghanistan and it is a matter of time before they threaten the Central Asian countries with retaliatory action for the latter's association with the US in Afghanistan.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are particularly vulnerable as their involvement in the war is much more direct and extensive than Turkmenistan's, which keeps a discreet, standoffish policy.

The outcome of the military operations in Waziristan on the Afghan-Pakistan border is viewed with utmost concern both in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A group of Central Asian Islamist fighters estimated to be in the hundreds with strong ties to al-Qaeda is holed up in Waziristan. These fighters are also the toughest and most battle-hardened "foreign fighters" in the war.

It remains a toss-up whether the 28,000-strong Pakistani army units can vanquish the estimated 10,000-15,000 Taliban militants in Waziristan. Expert opinion says Pakistan needs 10 times its present force strength to establish control. The Central Asians will be keeping their fingers crossed for another few anxious weeks before the winter sets in, as the Pakistani army cannot sustain the momentum of even its current level of operations.

In the event of the Pakistani army driving the "foreign fighters" out of Waziristan altogether, these militants may move up north. Tajikistan had sent troops into the Rasht Valley bordering Afghanistan earlier this year on the basis of reports that militants were transiting through Tajikistan towards the Ferghana Valley, which has been historically a hotbed of radical Islam and resistance.

General David Petraeus, the Central Command (CENTCOM) chief, who visited the Tajik capital of Dushanbe on Monday, acknowledged the problem when he told reporters, "First of all let me say that we are very sensitive to the movement of extremists in response to our operation. One reason we have worked with all of the countries to the north of Afghanistan to help with their borders and customs and special operation forces is to ensure that they have the capacity if required to combat extremism."

Great game simmers

Commenting on Petraeus' consultations with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and Tajik military officials, the US embassy spokeswoman in Dushanbe said the discussions touched on "joint operation in promoting stability in Afghanistan. They are going to be talking about combating drug trafficking, preventing terrorism and ... border security", apart from the transit deal for NATO cargo for Afghanistan.

Conceivably, the EU hopes to play an active role in the emergent scenario. Petraeus' visit to Dushanbe itself took place just four days after Rakhmon's visit to Moscow, which was billed by the Kremlin as a "special occasion". The Joint Declaration issued in Moscow said, "Russia and Tajikistan perceive the difficult situation in Afghanistan and the threats originating from Afghan territory in exactly the same way." It identified "specific steps to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in military and military-technical spheres".

Considering the deterioration of the war, Washington should have been pleased that Moscow was prepared to boost security on the Tajik-Afghan border. But the contrary seems to be happening. The US prefers to cherry pick from the Russian offers of help:
  • "A transit route for NATO cargo through Russian territory?" "Yes, that'll be useful."
  • "A waiver of charges for using Russian airspace [estimated fee of US$1.2 billion annually]?' "Of course, yes."
  • "Russia providing training and equipping the Afghan army [which is used to Soviet standards and weapons]?" "Maybe, we'll discuss."
  • "But, how about a role for the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] in the war?" Mum's the word.
  • "A coordinated war effort between NATO and CSTO?" Pin-drop silence.

    Meanwhile, according to reports, the US is deploying its special forces in Central Asia.

    Smoke and mirrors

  • The Central Asians comprehend what is going on. They know that while the US keeps Russia out, NATO will never have the capacity to deploy in Afghanistan at the level of the Red Army in the 1980s. They also know that raising an Afghan army - "Afghanization" - is vacuous talk. They see an indefinite Western military presence in Afghanistan as the only way out, but the political will is lacking in European capitals for that to happen.

    However, the dilemma of the elites in Tashkent and Dushanbe is that while they accept that Moscow is genuinely concerned about the escalating security threat to the region from Afghanistan, and may ultimately be compelled to seek Russian protection, they would rather not do so if they have a choice. Like Afghan President Hamid Karzai wanting to demarcate a "cultural gap" vis-a-vis the US, they too would consider it prudent to distance themselves from Russia and consolidate their position as national leaders and as "good Muslims" to brace for a possible Taliban victory.

    Like Karzai, they too would be increasingly skeptical about the ability of the Western powers or Russia to avert a Taliban victory. Equally, they too would be mindful of the very real possibility bordering on probability that neither the US nor Russia will hesitate in the ultimate analysis to strike a deal with the Taliban in its interests, leaving fellow travelers and comrades-in-arms in the lurch.

    To quote a Central Asia scholar, "Increasingly, they [elites in Tashkent or Dushanbe] ask for assurance that they will not be left in the cold, or [they] demonstrate their independence from both Russia and the West so as to ensure their support domestically and possibly among the very same Islamists against whom they supposedly engage in the war."

    Clearly, no story quite ends in the Central Asian steppes. There is always a sub-plot, often more than one. It is against this complex backdrop that the uniqueness of Uzbekistan - a cradle of Islamic culture and civilization - needs to be grasped. The West learned the hard way that the pre-requisite of an effective engagement in Central Asia is a full-fledged relationship with the regime in Tashkent.
  • Sunday, October 25, 2009

    The break-up of the Saudi Kingdom into dozens of Tribes with Flags is about to begin in earnest....

    Geopolitical risk is rising alarmingly for Saudi Arabia in the autumn of 2009. The civil war in Yemen has escalated into a national security nightmare for Riyadh. Hezbollah has once again checkmated Saudi ally Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister designate of Lebanon.

    The US, mired in recession and Obama’s health care reform, plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, exhibits no real enthusiasm to pressure Israel to halt its settlements or forge a credible military deterrent against Iran’s nuclear programme. Saudi Arabia distrusts the ruling cliques in both Baghdad and Damascus. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has faced setbacks in the international oil, money and banking markets that will force Riyadh to roll back its traditional cheque book diplomacy, the fabled “riyal politick”.

    The civil war in Yemen has fast replaced Iraq and Lebanon as the high stakes focus of Saudi diplomacy. Saudi troops once fought for the ousted Yemen royalist cause against Nasser’s Egyptian expeditionary force in the 1960’s, and Riyadh was horrified when South Yemen, with its capital at Aden, emerged as the only Marxist Leninist state in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia did its best to support conservative Sunni tribes in Yemen and the military regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the collapse of the Aden regime in the early 1990’s. Yet the Yemeni government now faces a full-scale civil war in its northern Saada province with a Zaidi Shia tribal revolt that seeks secession. Yemen, like Iraq and Lebanon, has emerged as a de facto proxy battlefield for Saudi Arabia in its struggle against Iran for strategic preeminence in the Islamic world.

    The Yemeni government has formally accused the Iranian government and Muqtada Al Sadr’s Jaaish Mehdi militia of supplying cash and weapons to the rebels. Iranian state media, in turn, has alleged that the Saudi Arabian air force participated in air strikes against the rebels.

    Overt Saudi military intervention in the Yemen civil war, as in the 1960’s, is not unthinkable if President Saleh’s government fails to destroy the rebel militias. It is not coincidence that Yemen has also replaced Afghanistan as the global epicenter of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks against the kingdom. A Yemeni Al Qaeda suicide bomber almost assassinated Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Interior Minister, in his Jeddah palace. Al Qaeda operatives have tried to bomb the US embassy in Sanaa. The kingdom’s risk calculus in Yemen is fast turning into a domestic and border security nightmare. Iraq has once again emerged as a major geopolitical threat to Saudi Arabia now that Barack Obama has decided to accelerate the withdrawal of 130,000 American troops. Saudi Arabia distrusts Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s Daiwa Party, whose ideological progenitor was the same Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) that once fomented riots, bombings and subversion in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province in the 1980’s. The prospects of a precipitate American withdrawal and a sectarian civil war in Iraq is a national security threat for Riyadh.

    The Saudis have historic relationships with the tribal confederations of Anbar and Diyala provinces, the seat of both insurgent ex-Baathists and Al Qaeda’s franchise in Mesopotamia. The Iraqi government clearly does not want an American or Saudi diplomatic rapprochement with Syria, the diplomatic fault line of the Arab world.

    Saudi diplomacy has been frustrated in Lebanon and Palestine, no less than in Iraq. Similarly, a political vacuum in Lebanon is entirely inimical to Saudi Arabian interests.

    Saudi Arabia is convinced that Syria and Iran will use Hezbollah’s status as a quasi-sovereign militia. Despite agreements in the presence of King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan at Makkah, Fatah and Hamas fought a bloody fratricidal war in Gaza and have still not developed a modus vivendi, despite Israel’s brutal military blitzkrieg last December. The election of the far right Likud politician Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen Saudi-inspired progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement ever since King Abdullah floated his historic peace plan in 2002. A stalemate in the Israeli Palestinian conflict and American inability to pressure Likud hurts status quo Arab powers like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

    Lastly, international oil and financial markets have suddenly turned riskier for Saudi Arabia. Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world. The Kremlin took advantage of a classic free ride after Saudi Arabia engineered a 4.2 million barrel price cut, the biggest in the history of OPEC. The kingdom can no longer hope to attract the $500 billion in foreign investments and credit into its six economic free zones because of the global recession. The UAE withdrew from the GCC monetary union. The $16 billion owed to international banking syndicates by two feuding Saudi conglomerates (Saad, Al Gosaibi Groups) can well trigger another credit crunch in Saudi banking.

    The collapse of the dollar since March decimates Saudi Arabia’s offshore wealth invested in US Treasury bills, a $400 billion hoard exceeded by only China and Japan. Saudi Arabia will post its first budget deficit since the oil crash of the late 1990’s. Saudi Arabia’s role as a financial superpower is correlated with its power and influence in the geopolitics of the Arab and Islamic world. Riyal-politick is no longer feasible on a lavish scale for Riyadh. The kingdom faces an autumn of risks.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    The moral dilemma of those who cozy-up to the immoral, utterly corrupt and criminal "western" powers only to discover Contrasting Middle East visions.

    The moral dilemma of those who cozy-up to the immoral, utterly corrupt and criminal "western" powers only to discover Contrasting Middle East visions ....

    When the strategic love affair between Israel and Turkey was made public in March of 1996, Turkey had conflictual relations with six of its nine neighbors. Earlier in the year, Turkey and Greece came very close to war over the uninhabited twin islets of Imia/Kardak in the Aegean Sea. Syria was hosting Turkey's public enemy number one, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

    An attempt by Greek Cypriots to buy S-300 missiles from Russia provoked a strong and belligerent reaction from the Turkish military. Iran was accused of complicity in terrorist activities inside Turkey. The PKK itself used the Kandil mountains in northern Iraq to stage its terrorist attacks against Turkey. Last but not least, Turkey had no diplomatic relations with Armenia.

    Domestically, the military's grip over civilian politics increased considerably in the wake of President Turgut Ozal's untimely death. A succession of ineffectual, mostly corrupt and incompetent coalition governments kept on postponing necessary economic, political and administrative reforms. As the establishment parties steadily lost their grip on a disenchanted electorate, the Islamists gained ground and in December of 1995 emerged from the general elections as the largest party in the country.

    Within its alliance system, Turkey was nearly a pariah state. It was unable to get technological and material support or buy required weapons from its allies in its fight against terrorism because of egregious human rights violations, particularly in the southeast of the country where most of its Kurdish citizens lived. In the United States, the country was battered by two powerful lobbies in Congress. Both the Greek and Armenian lobbies at the time were venomous in their approach to all matters Turkish.

    The "strategic alignment" with Israel occurred under such circumstances. It was masterminded by the military and aimed at breaking Turkey's isolation internationally, sending a strong message to its hostile neighbors and reminding the traditionally Israel-averse Islamists who the master was.

    Even if they exacerbated the Arabs' ingrained suspicions of Turkey, Turkish-Israeli relations served both countries' interests well. Within three years, Turkey's relations with Greece ameliorated, as did relations with Iran. The Turkish military gained confidence and ground in its fight against the PKK, with the help of intelligence from Israel as well as technology and materiel. Ankara put Syria on notice and forced Damascus to let Ocalan go. (He would later be apprehended in Kenya after having been hosted by the Greek ambassador and delivered to Turkish intelligence by the Americans.)

    Israel broke its isolation in the Middle East and benefited economically from these relations. Israeli citizens felt welcome in Istanbul and Antalya. Militarily, the opportunity for the Israel Air Force to train in the skies over the vast Konya valley was greatly appreciated. Ankara also received precious support from the pro-Israel lobby in the United States to stave off "genocide" resolutions in the US Congress and developed a close relationship with some Jewish organizations.

    These relations made sense strategically and were mutually beneficial. But from the Turkish perspective there was a catch. The legitimacy of these intimate relations depended on the existence of a viable and credible Israel-Arab peace process. The Turkish public was historically pro-Palestinian and strongly favored an independent Palestinian state. Therefore, as relations between Israel and the Palestinians deteriorated and there was no longer a peace process to speak of, the moral basis of the alignment eroded.

    In the meantime Turkey changed. An introverted, hard-core militarist Turkey gradually gave way to a Turkey that was opening up and preparing itself for European Union membership. Its economy expanded. Long-postponed administrative and political reforms took place thanks to the EU accession process under the rule of a political party, the AKP, that had its roots in the traditionally anti-western Islamist movement. A major power shift began to take place. The military's hold over Turkish politics was finally on the wane and new elites began to replace the old ones economically, socially and politically. Turkey's periphery, historically excluded from its political space, moved to the center.

    In foreign policy, Turkey simultaneously pursued EU accession and engagement with its neighboring regions. Although the AKP did not invent this policy of rapprochement it certainly deepened it. In the wake of the war in Iraq, and particularly as Washington's colossal failures became ever more visible, Turkey's interest and involvement in the region increased considerably. Not only did the credibility of the country hit new heights because of parliament's refusal to allow the deployment of American troops to open a northern front against Iraq, but this political stance endeared it to the publics of the Middle East.

    No longer considered a threat, a Turkey that relied heavily on hard power, shunned the Middle East and where the military called all the important shots--segued into a Turkey that was capable of deploying soft power. It set an example of a country that could integrate its Islamists into the political system, continue on the democratic path and show impressive economic growth. Arabs discovered Turkey in ever-growing numbers as Turkish TV series started to dominate prime-time airwaves throughout the region.

    In its foreign policy as well, the AKP committed itself to the principle of "zero problems" with the neighbors. It moved in to fill the vacuum created by the United States and volunteered its good offices for mediation in the long-standing conflicts of the region, particularly those that involved Israel. No wonder then that under such a transformed environment and domestic set-up relations with Israel were being relativized.

    Turkish foreign policy was thus designed to create zones of stability around the country, avoid confrontation and prepare the conditions for economic expansion. The sine qua non of this vision and the design it wished to configure was comprehensive peace in the region. To that end, Ankara took many risks and even tried to engage with Hamas after the latter's election in Palestine in 2006. Since conditions in the region and Turkey's domestic and foreign political profiles were changing so radically, it was only a matter of time before conflict arose with an Israel that appeared to be stuck in a time warp. Whereas Turkey prioritized peaceful engagement and stability for the entire region, Tel Aviv appeared incapable of changing its ways and seriously trying for a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians.

    Tel Aviv saw Iran as an existential threat, wished to isolate the Islamic Republic and even threatened to bomb it to abort its nuclear ambitions. Ankara had no desire for a nuclear-armed Iran either, but vehemently opposed military action against its neighbor. In short, as Israel continued to be hardheaded about its security and favored military action for all its problems, increasingly Turkey preferred the diplomatic route and grew averse to the deployment of military power.

    The Lebanon and Gaza operations of 2006 and 2009 therefore brought forth the inherent tensions in the alignment. The AKP's reaction was more a reflection of a structural conflict than an ideological predisposition, however passionate and at times offensive the Turkish prime minister's rhetoric may have been during the Gaza operation and in its aftermath.

    As things stand, Turkey and Israel appear to have two contrasting visions of engagement with the Middle East. At a time when the strategic framework that allowed Israel to pursue its foreign policy as it saw fit is no longer extant, Tel Aviv's usual approach will not gain support even from the American administration. Ankara, on the other hand, because of its newfound emphasis on stability, peace and economic integration in the region, is adamantly against the use of force and letting the Palestinian problem fester. It is quite obvious that this is part of the reason why Washington so values Turkey's partnership these days.

    So long as these two incompatible positions do not change, there will be ever more conflicts and public displays of anger between the two erstwhile allies....

    Opposite trajectories...

    Syria could not be more ecstatic at the row that has recently developed between Turkey and Israel. Turkey, once among Israel's staunchest allies, now sees eye-to-eye with Syria regarding the difficulties in dealing with Israel and Israel's abusive treatment of Palestinians.

    Turkey began to feel uneasy with Israel when, following four promising rounds of Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel in 2008, Israel went on a rampage in Gaza. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who personally intervened between the two conflicting parties to try and seal a peace deal between Syria and Israel, is said to have felt stabbed in the back when, on the eve of the fifth round, Israel launched its murderous war on Gaza, effectively killing the Syria-Israel talks.

    But even before Israel's Gaza adventure, Erdogan is said to have been miffed at the gruesome images of an entire Palestinian family mowed down by Israeli fire while picnicking on a Gaza beach in June 2006. The mark this massacre left on Erdogan was deep enough for him to cite it in his public rebuke of Israeli violence toward Palestinians during the January 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos. To further show Turkey's displeasure with Israel, Erdogan's government cancelled Israel's participation during this October's "Anatolian Eagle" exercise--a joint NATO air force war game in Turkish skies.

    Israeli practices explain Turkey's displeasure, but only in part. After all, Israel's continued occupation of Arab territories, its foot-dragging on peace and its brutality against the Palestinians are nothing new. The other part is the product of a shift in the foreign policies of both Turkey and Israel. With regard to Turkey, two dynamics seem to be at work: the end of Turkey's role as a pillar in the post-Cold War era western alliance on the one hand, combined with European insistence on the democratization of Turkish politics as one pre-condition for EU membership on the other. These have weakened the Turkish army's stranglehold on Turkey's domestic and foreign policies, strengthening mainstream political parties in the process.

    The second dynamic has to do with the EU's foot-dragging on Turkey's bid for EU membership--a catalyst in cementing Turkish national identity and pride. Even the most Europeanized among Turks have come to revile the condescending way in which Europe has treated them. Given Turkey's rich imperial history, along with a relatively large population of 72 million and an economy that dwarfs those of its Middle Eastern neighbors, it was only a question of time before Turkey would opt for the leading regional role it now enjoys rather than the marginal one Brussels would assign it.

    With regard to Israel, once a component of the same anti-Soviet western alliance, Israel's accumulation of power across time has enabled it to act unilaterally and with impunity, so much so that Israel now defies its own superpower patron, the US, not least on the issue of the expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied Arab territories. In brief, Israeli jingoism is radicalizing the Middle East and, in the process, jeopardizing the regional stability Turkey seeks to promote through its "zero-problem policy"--a new Turkish regional approach in which regional rivals would now burry the hatchet. In these circumstances, the opposite trajectories that Turkey and Israel embarked on were bound to collide.

    Despite Syria's elation with Turkey's snub of Israel, it would be in everyone's interest, including Syria's, for Turkey and Israel to restore some calm in their relations. Turkey has proven to be an effective mediator between Syria and Israel and, if the interrupted peace talks are to resume, Turkey must be present, like it or not, in the room and at the table alongside the US, which, as things stand, has shown itself to be no more of an impartial broker than Turkey....

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Who runs the Intelligence services east and west.....?

    Britain's security service, MI6

    Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East” - 2006
    The “New Middle East” project was introduced publicly by Washington and Tel Aviv with the expectation that Lebanon would be the pressure point for realigning the whole Middle East and thereby unleashing the forces of “constructive chaos.” This “constructive chaos” --which generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region-- would in turn be used so that the United States, Britain, and Israel could redraw the map of the Middle East in accordance with their geo-strategic needs and objectives. {more}

    "Agents of either service are “eliminated” when they find out more than is good for them about this odd arrangement..., HK is a case in point..."

    On 8 October 2009, MI5's Jewish terrorism fear was reported on by The Jewish Chronicle

    The Jewish Chronicle tells us that in his new book about Britain's security services, The Defence of the Realm, Professor Chistopher Andrew quotes one MI5 section head, John Marriot, as saying in 1955 that "our policy is to avoid recruiting Jews if possible."

    Andrew's book has one chapter on the threat from Jewish terrorists, such as the Irgun and Stern Gang which carried out attacks on British troops in Palestine.

    In 1947 the Colonial Office in London was targeted by a Stern Gang bomb.

    In 1947, the Stern Gang sent letter bombs to British politicians.

    In 1947, grenades and detonators were discovered, by his chauffeur, in the boot of the car of Harry Isaac Presman of north London.
    Professor Andrew relates how British spy Kim Philby, one of the five Cambridge spies who worked for Russia, was recruited for the KGB by Arnold Deutsch, a Jew.

    In the 1970s MI5 was worried about the Jewish business cronies of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Joseph Kagan, Rudy Sternberg and Harry Kissin.

    Kagan was linked to a KGB officer.

    Victor Rothschild joined MI5 during the Second World War. In 1940 Rothschild suggested that Anthony Blunt should be invited to join the secret service. He also rented a house to his friend Guy Burgess. After the liberation of France Rothschild worked with Dick White, Kim Philby and Malcolm Muggeridge at the MI6 offices established at the Rothschild family mansion in Paris. Edward Heath, in 1970, appointed him head of the government's Central Policy Review Staff. Later Margaret Thatcher appointed Rothschild as her unofficial security adviser.

    In The Defence of the Realm, by Christopher Andrew we are told that until 1997 recruitment for the UK security services was based on personal recommendation.

    That could mean fascists choosing their fascist friends; or Zionists choosing their Zionist friends.

    We are led to believe that "right up to the mid-1970s, the post-war Service refused to recruit Jews on the grounds that a dual loyalty to both Britain and Israel might create a conflict of interest." (The Defence of the Realm by Christopher Andrew )

    This is misleading.

    In 1951, the security services discovered that five of their top employees, recruited at Cambridge University in the 1930s, were spies for the Soviet Union, a country which exchanged secrets with Israel.

    At least one of the 'Cambridge Five' had links to Israel.

    Reportedly, Kim Philby was assisted in obtaining safe haven in the Soviet Union by the Israeli Mossad (cf. Sunday Telegraph, April 16, 1989) Cached; Lord Victor Rothschild was allegedly one of the Cambridge spies; Guy Burgess was close to Rothschild.

    According to ex-KGB Colonel 'F' and KGB officer Yuri Modin, Victor Rothschild was the key to most of the Cambridge ring's penetration of British Intelligence.

    According to Roland Perry, in his book The Fifth Man: "Burgess, at MI6 (and still on a retainer from Rothschild) recommended Philby for a job in Section D of MI6.

    "Rothschild, who had helped nudge Burgess into his position before the war, had been in turn recommended to MI5 by Burgess."

    "'Rothschild had the contacts,' Modin noted. 'He was able to introduce Burgess, Blunt and others to important figures in Intelligence such as Stewart Menzies, Dick White and Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Under-secretary of State in the Foreign Office, who controlled MI6.'"

    According to Perry, Rothschild "made sure Russia's scientists had the basics of every secret project from biological warfare to radar and the various types of potential nuclear bomb."

    Soon after Israel was formed, Rothschild was allegedly involved with Chaim Weizmann in setting up a special nuclear physics department in a scientific institute in Rehovoth.

    In 1957, French engineers began building a nuclear reactor at Dimona on the edge of the Negev Desert.

    Perry believes that while "MI5 inventions and technical advances went on, Rothschild kept in contact with the key figures and digested the reports.

    "This, coupled with his close contact with Dick White, other intelligence chiefs, Wright and the heads of the key research facilities in everything from weapons to radar, meant that Rothschild understood better than anyone in MI6 or MI5 every aspect of British Intelligence, from technical developments to their application in the field..."

    In 1972, Rothschild played a major part in choosing the new head of MI5, Michael Hanley.

    According to the controversial Eustace Mullins (CHAPTER FIVE - The CIA - 3):

    While CIA station chief in Rome, the CIA's Angleton "worked closely with the Zionist terrorists Teddy Kollek and Jacob Meridor, and later became chief of the Israeli desk at the CIA, helping Philby to set up the lavishly funded international Mossad espionage operation, all paid for by American taxpayers.

    "A senior CIA security official, C. Edward Petty, later reported that Angleton might be a Soviet penetration agent or mole, but President Gerald Ford suppressed the report.

    "Top secret files of the CIA and FBI were opened to Philby, despite widespread claims that he was a Soviet agent.

    "Although he helped Burgess and MacLean defect to Russia in 1951, he continued to work for SIS until 1956, under the protection of Harold MacMillan, who defended him publicly in parliamentary debate.

    "In 1962 and Englishwoman at a party in Israel said, “As usual Kim is doing what his Russian Control tells him. I know that he always worked for the Reds.”

    "Miles Copeland says that Philby placed a mole in deep cover in the CIA known as “Mother”. Philby was quoted as saying, “Foreign agencies spying on the U.S. Government know exactly what one person in the CIA wants them to know, no more and no less.”

    "Philby was finally exposed by a defector, Michael Goleniewski.

    "On Jan. 23, 1963, Philby left Beirut and defected to Moscow, where he became a Lt. Gen. in the KGB.

    "On June 10, 1984, Tad Szulc wrote in the Washington Post that Philby was never a Soviet agent, according to CIA memoranda introduced in a lawsuit, but that he was a triple agent.

    "This explains curious paradoxes in the supposed rivalry between the CIA and the KGB, when certain charmed souls float easily back and forth between the two services.

    "Agents of either service are “eliminated” when they find out more than is good for them about this odd arrangement."

    Eustace Mullins - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    The Dragon and the Elephant ...

    The surprise element was almost completely lacking. The expectation in Delhi for a while has been that sooner or later Beijing would hit out. Verbal affronts from India were becoming a daily occurrence and a nuisance for Being. Not a single day has passed for the past several months when either influential sections of the Indian strategic community or the English-language media, tied by the umbilical cord of financial patronage to the Indian establishment, failed to indulge in some vituperative attack on Chinese policies and conduct towards India.

    Yet, when it finally came on Wednesday, the timing of the cumulative Chinese reaction was most curious. Beijing chose a very special day on its diplomatic calendar to make its point. The prime ministers of Russia and Pakistan, Vladimir Putin and
    Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the United States Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, were on official visits to Beijing. Indeed, Campbell had come on an important mission to prepare for the visit by US President Barack Obama to China next month.

    Beijing made a big point that its current ruckus with Delhi was less bilateral and more geopolitical. Indeed, Wednesday's People's Daily commentary on India resorted to a colloquium that hasn't been heard in the dialogue across the Himalayas for very many years.

    On the previous day, in two statements the Chinese Foreign Ministry provided the "curtain raiser" for the People's Daily commentary. The first statement focused attention on the recent Indian media campaign against China and asked Delhi to be "conducive toward promoting mutual understanding", rather than publishing false reports on border tensions.

    The second statement was substantive and it conveyed that Beijing was "seriously dissatisfied" by the visit of the Indian prime minister 10 days ago to the state of Arunachal Pradesh (which China claims as its territory). The Chinese spokesman said, "China and India have not reached any formal agreement on the border issue. We demand that the Indian side pay attention to the serious and just concerns of the Chinese side and not to provoke incidents in the disputed region, in order to facilitate the healthy development of China-India relations."

    The Indian reaction came within hours and was at the highest level of the foreign-policy establishment. Foreign Minister S M Krishna brushed off the Chinese statement, saying, "Well, regardless of what others say, it is the government of India's stated position that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. We rest at that." He added that Delhi was "disappointed and concerned" over China's objection.

    The diplomatic backdrop was evidently getting electrified when the People's Daily struck. It literally tore into Indian policies. Leaving aside specifics, it dealt with what Beijing assessed to be the core issue - India's obsession with superpower status born out of its rooted complexes of having "constantly been under foreign rule ... throughout history" and its "recklessness and arrogance" towards its neighbors. "The dream of superpower is mingled with the thought of hegemony, which places the South Asian giant in an awkward situation and results in its repeated failure," the commentary pointed out.

    The striking thing about the Chinese commentary was that it echoed a widespread criticism that is quite often voiced by India's neighbors. The commentary sought to establish a commonality of concerns between China and India's neighbors over the rising tide of Indian nationalism in the past decade or so with its disagreeable manifestations for regional cooperation. "To everyone's disappointment, India pursues a foreign policy of 'befriend the far and attack the near' ... India, which vows to be a superpower, needs to have its eyes on relations with neighbors and abandon its recklessness and arrogance as the world is undergoing earthshaking changes," the commentary claimed.

    Beijing surely factored in that almost without exception, India's neighbors voice similar concerns and are currently seeking friendly and close ties with China to balance India's perceived overbearing attitude towards them. In effect, the Chinese commentary tapped into the near-total isolation that India faces today in the South Asian region.

    Interestingly, the People's Daily followed up by running a sequel on Thursday, this time harshly telling Delhi a couple of things. One, it underlined that Delhi was seriously mistaken if it estimated that China could be hustled into a border settlement with India through pressure tactics. It affirmed categorically that the border dispute could be settled or a substantial step forward approaching a final solution could be taken "only on the condition that both of them [China and India] are ready to shake off the traditional and deep-seated misunderstandings".

    Two, the commentary alleged that Delhi was getting "disoriented when making decisions" because it harbored a notion that the US was viewing India as a counterweight to China. Delhi was also becoming susceptible to the US stratagem to "woo India away from Russia and China and, in the meantime, feeding India's ambition to match China force by force by its ever burgeoning arms sales to India".

    Most important, the commentary concluded that although China and India "will never pose a mortal foe to each other", if the Indian establishment and a "handful of irresponsible media institutions" didn't restrain themselves, "an accidental slip or go-off at the border would erode into a war", which neither side wanted. It is very obvious that Beijing sees the Indian establishment's hand behind the vituperative media campaign against China in recent months.

    How the tensions pan out is another matter. In immediate terms, a flashpoint arises as the Indian government has approved a visit by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in November to Arunachal Pradesh. No doubt, if the visit goes ahead, the Sino-Indian relationship will nosedive into a corridor of deep chill from which it may take a long time for the two countries to emerge.

    The curious thing is this will be taking place at a time when the geopolitics of the region and world development as a whole will be passing through a transformative period of far-reaching significance. Given the fact that China's global power is an established reality, India may be painting itself into a corner by opting out of a mutual understanding with Beijing precisely at this juncture when the agenda of global issues and regional security is heavily laden.

    On the contrary, if Delhi pays heed to Chinese sensitivities about the Dalai Lama's peregrinations in November, it will be accused by the Indian nationalist camp as buckling under Chinese pressure. An element of grandstanding, unfortunately, is entering into the Sino-Indian relationship, which runs against the grain of its maturing in the recent decade.

    Equally, a question mark now envelops the rationale of India hosting the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in the coming weeks within the framework of the trilateral format. To be sure, the equilibrium within the format has been disturbed. Russia and China have been developing an intense strategic partnership; India's traditional ties with Moscow have significantly weakened under the current pro-US leadership in Delhi; and, now, India's normalization process with China has suffered a severe setback.

    At the same time, Russia has begun a serious attempt to choreograph a positive trajectory to its languishing relationship with Pakistan by taking it out of the trough of benign neglect and injecting some dynamism into it. China, of course, enjoys an "all-weather friendship" with Pakistan.

    Indian policies are predicated on the assumption that a Sino-US clash of interests is inevitable as China's surge as a world power has become unstoppable, and Washington will have use of Delhi as a counterweight to Beijing sooner than most people would think. Surely, there is disquiet in Delhi about the Barack Obama administration's regional policies, which no longer accord India the status of a pre-eminent power and which place primacy on the US's alliance with India's arch rival, Pakistan.

    But Delhi hopes that Obama will ultimately have to pay heed to US business interests and therefore India holds a trump card in the burgeoning market that it offers to the American corporate sector - unlike Pakistan, which is a basket case at best, a can of worms at worst.

    Simply put, India is estimated to be the biggest arms buyer in the world and a market estimated to be worth US$100 billion is presenting itself to exploitation by American arms manufacturers - provided Obama has his wits about him and realizes on which side his South Asian bread is buttered. Delhi hopes to incrementally pose an existential choice to Obama through an idiom that the US political establishment understands perfectly well: the business interests of its military-industrial complex.

    One thing is clear. Powerful Indian lobbyists have been at work in whipping up a war hysteria and xenophobia over China. The Washington Post recently featured a Delhi-datelined report on the shenanigans of these Indian fat cats who mainly comprise retired Indian defense officials and senior bureaucrats who act as commission agents for big American arms manufacturers. There was a time when the Sandhurst-trained Indian military personnel retired to the cool hill stations and spent the sunset of their lives playing bridge or going for long walks and regaling their visitors with their wartime stories while sipping whisky.

    Nowadays, the smart ones among the retired generals and top bureaucrats take up residence in Delhi's suburbs and overnight transform themselves into "strategic thinkers" and begin networking with some American think-tank or the other, while probing a new lease on life as brokers or commission agents for arms manufacturers.

    All in all, it is virtually certain that these lobbyists can expect a windfall out of Sino-Indian tensions. After all, a case has been neatly made about the imperatives of a close Indian tie-up with the US. The current Indian political elite doesn't really need any prompting in that direction, but all the same, a degree of public accountability may at times become necessary. Transparency International has bestowed on India the distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries on the planet and it is an open secret that India's arms procurement program provides a vast avenue to siphon off national wealth.

    If the Indian market for military hardware is worth $100 billion, it is quite understandable that a gravy train is getting ready for the Indian elites. The People's Daily commentator may have unwittingly waved off the train from the platform. And that was exactly what the Indian elites and fat cats wanted.

    Now, all eyes will turn toward the visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington in November. Obama has let it be known that Manmohan will be the first dignitary to be honored with a state banquet during his presidency.

    The Americans are vastly experienced with the Indians' Himalayan ego and by now they know well enough where and how to tickle Indian vanities. How they pedal fresh dreams to the Indians and pick up the fruits of their endeavors will be keenly watched not only by the multitude of Indians back at home, but also by the Pakistanis, Chinese and the Russians.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Pakistan warns India to 'back off'

    Pakistan warns India to 'back off'

    The Indian embassy in Kabul has been targeted for bomb attack for a second time in the past 15 months. A least 17 people were killed in Thursday's attack, when a car loaded with explosives rammed into the embassy's compound wall.

    The Indian chancery is not far from the presidential palace and, ironically enough, just across the road from the Afghan interior ministry. Needless to say, the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, have shown they have the capacity to hit anywhere, any time - a message that is already understood.

    However, since the target is the Indian embassy, there also has to be a political message. In Delhi, the inclination is to suspect the hand of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The security agencies have their own strange codes to communicate
    signals, and Thursday's attack does seem to convey some complicated signal, which needs to be deciphered. Conceivably, the message is that India should back off from any enterprise to expand its presence in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan has not hidden its deep disquiet that India still maintains consulates in two key locations close to Pakistani border regions - Jalalabad and Kandahar. It suspects that India uses these outposts for electronic intelligence with an agenda of subverting Pakistan's stability and somehow laying its hands on Pakistan's nuclear assets.

    Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi publicly warned on Monday while on a visit to the United States that Indians "have to justify their interest" in Kabul. He told Los Angeles Times that India's "level of engagement [in Kabul] has to be commensurate with [the fact that] they do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do ... If there is no massive reconstruction [in Afghanistan], if there are not long queues in Delhi waiting for visas to travel to Kabul, why do you have such a large [Indian] presence in Afghanistan? At times, it concerns us."

    Indeed, the top United States commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal underscored in his report last month to US President Barack Obama that India was "exacerbating regional tensions" via its activities in Afghanistan. He anticipated that Pakistan would take "counter-measures".

    US-India collusion?
    To compound matters, Indian officials have been needlessly stressing the country's "soft power" in Afghanistan. Sure, India is a major donor country, having committed to spend $1.2 billion as assistance in Afghanistan. Delhi's aid program spans diverse fields such as education, health, power, telecommunications, road-building and other areas and has gone a long way in boosting India's profile and influence in Kabul.

    Pakistan views the hyperactive Indian aid program in zero-sum terms as essentially aimed at undercutting its influence. India is also not helping matters. The discourse in Delhi is that India has deep and historical ties of friendship with the Afghan people and in any case, who are these Pakistanis to dictate what India should or shouldn't do?

    India point blank refuses to concede that Pakistan has any "special interests" in Afghanistan similar or anywhere near to what India claims to have in Nepal or Sri Lanka. On the contrary, Indian commentators insist that Delhi has a right and an obligation to be assertive in Afghanistan, considering the overall stakes in the fight against terrorism and India's "burden" as a regional power. The argument is flawless although the hubris is highly offensive.

    A turning point is coming in the Afghan war. All eyes are trained on Obama's new strategy. The discussion focuses on US troop levels, but it overlooks that enormous tension has been building up in Pakistan in the recent weeks. The Pakistani military seems to apprehend that Washington may be intensifying the drone attacks on top Taliban leadership.

    Washington's assassination campaign has lately met with stunning success. High-value terrorist targets are getting killed. The campaign has been extended from the tribal areas to the North-West Frontier Province. The American ambassador in Islamabad recently hinted that the drones might soon come looking for the Taliban shura (council) headed by Mullah Omar, who is believed to be hiding in Balochistan.

    The Americans seem to have developed intelligence resources for mounting the drone attacks. While there is collusion between the CIA and the Pakistani security agencies, the US also has intelligence-sharing with other countries, including India.

    Certainly, at some point in the conceivable future, the drone may get the top Taliban leadership in its crosshairs. If that happens, Pakistan's so-called "strategic asset" in the Hindu Kush will get destroyed and Islamabad's capacity to project power into Afghanistan will drastically diminish.

    Against such a backdrop, the ISI remains extremely wary of any Indian intelligence penetration in the southern and southeastern regions of Afghanistan. Glancing through the Pakistani media on any single day, it becomes obvious there is virtual paranoia that the US is secretly colluding with India. There is suspicion that the US is needlessly increasing its physical presence in Pakistan. The corps commanders meting in the GHQ in Rawalpindi on Wednesday took the unusual step of publicly airing the army's "concerns" over the implications for "national security" of the conditionalities attached by the Kerry-Lugar bill which the US Congress legislated recently for channeling vastly increased American aid of US$1.5 billion annually to Pakistan.

    "Warlords" to hunt down Taliban ...
    Interestingly, Pakistani commentators with links to the Pakistani military establishment have concluded that India had a hand in drafting the Kerry-Lugar bill.

    At the present moment, what really worries the Pakistani military is that despite previous assurances to the contrary, Washington may finally accept the new line-up taking shape in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai that includes prominent Northern Alliance "warlords" who had worked closely with India in the latter half of the 1990s and right until the US ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.

    Arguably, these "warlords" could play a useful role for the US in stabilizing Afghanistan and in the "Afghanization" of the war in a very near term in a way that will significantly ease the pressure on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops. Actually, this could be an Afghan variant of the Sunni "Awakening" that the US implemented with considerable success within a short timeframe in Iraq. Obama is indeed looking for ways of quickly retrieving the security situation in Afghanistan and is working within a tight timeframe.

    The Pakistani military worries about any proximity developing between the US and the Northern Alliance "warlords". Needless to say, India's influence in Afghanistan will take a quantum jump if the "warlords" are resurrected by the US and put in charge of the Afghan security for battling a tenacious Taliban. As longtime opponents of the Taliban, the "warlords" advocate a tough line against the insurgency. As Mohammed Fahim, who is likely to be the vice-president in Karzai's new government told New York Times, "My belief is the time for peace is when we are strong and the Taliban are weak. Now would not be a good time for Afghanistan to make peace."

    Fahim said the government and coalition forces should hit Taliban bases inside Pakistan and in southern Afghanistan. "The method of fighting should be studied very carefully; there should be a new strategy," Fahim added. He is not opposed to the continued foreign troop presence in Afghanistan, maintaining that it is a "reality".

    In short, if "warlords" are put in the driving seat of anti-Taliban operations, the ISI may be compelled to suffer the ultimate humiliation of passively witnessing the "warlords" systematically ravaging the Taliban cadres - as only local Afghan militia can effectively do - and reducing them to a useless rabble or, worse still, force the residual elements to flee to their mentors across the border in Pakistan for protection.

    …with Indian help?
    India, of course, can do a lot to help the US and NATO in such a scenario by training the militia operating under the "warlords" and also providing them with weapons. In sum, without military deployment in Afghanistan, Delhi has the capacity to play a decisive role in crushing the Taliban insurgency, which is what makes the Pakistani military establishment extremely anxious in the developing political scenario on the Afghan chessboard.

    No wonder, the Pakistani military is watching with great anxiety any signs of new thinking in Washington in the direction of co-opting the Northern Alliance "warlords" in the fight against the Taliban. It is a close call. Opinion is divided in Washington. The general perception of Afghan realities through Western eyes makes the "warlords" appear a highly disagreeable constituency to serve even as collaborators in the current desperate situation. There is a serious mental block that needs to be overcome in the West in comprehending the Afghan realities. Pakistan counts on that.

    Secondly, Pakistan expects the Obama administration to be sensitive to its concerns vis-a-vis an Indian presence in Afghanistan. Indeed, Washington needs to walk a fine line by not annoying the Pakistani military even while tapping into any help India can render. NATO has just urged Moscow to be a partner in the "Afghanization" of the war despite the backlog of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. India, on the contrary, would be regarded as a benign friendly power in Afghanistan. Yet, Washington has to make a choice in favor of optimally getting the Pakistani military's help, which is crucial, rather than co-opting an Indian sideshow.

    All in all, taking into account the distinct possibility that a friendly Karzai-led government will be in power in Kabul for the next five years, the mood in Delhi is increasingly that India should adopt a "forward policy" toward terrorism in the region rather than allow itself to be bled periodically by Pakistan-based terrorists.

    Influential sections of Indian opinion are stridently calling for an outright Indian intervention in Afghanistan without awaiting the niceties of an American invitation letter. The fact of the matter is that there is tremendous frustration that Pakistan has neither moved against the perpetrators of the terrorist strikes on Mumbai last November nor folded up the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil. Islamabad's alibi that "non-state actors" are responsible does not convince Delhi, either.

    Interestingly, even as these maneuverings are edging their way to a climax in the coming weeks, Delhi just hosted an international conference titled "Peace and Stability in Afghanistan", which was attended by among others Lieutenant General David W Barno, who heads the National Defense University in Washington.

    Barno, an expert consultant on counter-insurgency, had a 19-month tour of Afghanistan from October 2003 commanding the US and Coalition Forces. It so happens Barno's tenure in Afghanistan was also the period the Northern Alliance "warlords" look back with nostalgia as their halcyon days in the power structure in Kabul.

    The two-day conference in Delhi, which was addressed by top officials of the Indian foreign ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, ended on Wednesday. The Taliban struck at the Indian embassy in Kabul on Thursday. Maybe it is mere coincidence, maybe it is not. In the world of John le Carre's spymaster George Smiley, you can never tell...

    And in the USA - "In the debate surrounding Barack Obamas decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, one detail has slipped through without much attention: Barack Obama was the top recipient of military industry money in the 2008 election cycle." (

    Headley served as an American spy

    And who is trying to weaken India as an economic power?

    David Headley, an American, is a suspect in the Mumbai hotel bombings of 2008.

    Reportedly he is in the custody of the FBI.

    According to the New York Times, Headley went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). (An Accused Plotter With Feet in East and West / Is Headley an American agent ? )

    David Coleman Headley 'was probably used by US intelligence to infiltrate Lashar-E-Toiba'. (Headley: Undercover agent?)

    "The tantalising possibility that David Coleman Headley may have been a US undercover agent ... is vexing many here as American authorities keep the US-based Lashkar jihadi out of the reach of Indian investigators." (Is Headley an American agent? )

    According to The Times of India, Headley, while in India, 'frequently introduced himself as a CIA agent'. (Is Headley an American agent? )

    Headley used to visit a Mumbai golf course where he spent hours chatting to western diplomats. (Headley struck rapport with diplomats over golf )

    Headley's father, Sayed Salim Gilani, a Pakistani diplomat and former Director General of Radio Pakistan, traced his ancestry to the same Gilani family to which the Pakistan prime minister belongs.

    Headley's step brother Danyal Gilani was working in the office of Pakistan Prime Minister as his Public Relations Officer, sources have said. (Is Headley distantly related to Pak PM?)

    FBI officials have alleged that David Coleman Headley was involved in the 26/11 hotel attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

    David headley's mother is an American called Serril Headley. (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Serril was a well known night spot owner in Philadelphia.

    Serril got custody of David in 1977.

    In 1997 David headley was jailed for 15 months for heroin smuggling. (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Around this time he may have been taken over by the CIA?

    David Headley is suspected of traveling to India to scout locations for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

    He reportedly posed as a Jew to scout the Nariman House synagogue.

    He made multiple visits to India before and after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

    David Headley was born Daood Gilani.

    His father was a prominent Pakistani diplomat.

    David Headley is accused of reporting to Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistani military officer associated with Al Qaeda (the CIA) (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    David Headley is described by the New York Times as An Accused Plotter With Feet in East and West

    According to the New York Times:

    David Headley was born in Washington.

    David Headley, at the age of 17, went to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar.

    Today, David Headley's wife and children live in Chicago.

    According to a relative, and friends, David Headley has an American girlfriend, a makeup artist in New York.

    The FBI report that Headley has had contacts with Al Qaeda and with officials in the Pakistani government and military.

    David Headley's father was a diplomat at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

    When David Headley's parents moved to Pakistan, David attended a military school in Pakistan.

    David Headley's parents divorced some years after the move to Pakistan.

    According to family friends, David Headley's mother was involved in heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships, and David Headley engaging in the same behavior.

    According to Jay Wilson, "Those were the days when girls, weed and whatever were readily available. Daood was not immune to the pleasures of American adolescence."

    In 1998, David Headley, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the USA from Pakistan.

    He was sentenced to less than two years in jail.

    Later he went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.


    The US will continue to be a pre-eminent power of the world. Despite its growing economic and military strength, China will not be able to challenge the pre-eminence of the US. The pre-eminence of a nation is not derived only from its GDP growth rate, foreign trade and military modernization. It is also derived from its intellectual, technological, moral and cultural strength and its ability to constantly innovate and evolve. China is nowhere near the US in respect of these factors. It is unlikely to be in the short and medium terms.

    2. The biggest asset of the US is not its armed forces. It is its educational system---its schools, colleges and universities of excellence. It is its democratic system, its multi-cultural ambiance and its ability to harmonize and profit from cultural influences from different parts of the world. China is yet to build for itself a comparable educational system. Its one-party State is not conducive to a robust intellectual debate without which the intellectual prowess of a State and civil society will remain stunted.

    3. Stalin and his successors built up the USSR into what they thought was the equal of the US as a super power. Large parts of the world looked upon the USSR as the equal of the US. Nikita Khrushchev even talked of the USSR overtaking the US and “burying the US capitalist system.” Look at what happened to the USSR and who was buried. The US had the last laugh.

    4. India is the only country in Asia, which can evolve into a power comparable to the USA. Its democratic and educational systems, its pluralistic civil society and its pervasive cultural influence are strong foundations for its emergence as a power to be reckoned with not only economically and militarily, but also intellectually and culturally. India’s growing hard power as measured by its economic and military strength still lags behind that of China, but its soft power from which arises the ability to influence the hearts and minds of people is far ahead of that of China.

    5. China is a distrusted power. Even its perceived allies do not feel quite comfortable in its embrace. There is hardly any distrust of India across the world--- except in Pakistan.

    6.Whether one likes it or not, the US influence will continue to count in the years to come. Its economy will recover faster than one imagines. Its military strength and stamina will remain intact whatever be the outcome of its “war” against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. There can be no meaningful challenge to its political influence. The stamp of its political influence will be found in all major developments of the world, whatever be the region. To talk of a world without US influence or even with a reduced US influence will be illusory.

    7. India has two options---- either continue to be inhibited in its policies towards the US because of the negative experiences of the past or get out of the stranglehold of these negative memories and work for a new relationship with the US, which will be mutually beneficial. The negative experiences and memories are still strong and many. One can mention as examples the US attempt to intimidate India during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, its building-up the military strength of Pakistan, its closing its eyes to Pakistan’s misuse of this military strength given for fighting communism for fighting India and to Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a weapon against India, its encouragement of the Pakistani machinations on Kashmir , its refusal to sell modern technologies to India, its placing India for nearly three decades in a nuclear dog house after the Indian nuclear test of 1974 etc etc .

    8.An attempt to get out of these negative experiences was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and Barack Obama’s predecessor George Bush. The credit for visualizing India’s potential as an emerging power of Asia capable of considerable benign influence across Asia should go to Bush and his Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice. They were impressed by the strength of India’s pluralism which had kept Al CIA-da out of its Muslim community, the second largest in the world after that of Indonesia. They were equally impressed by the strength of India’s democracy and its soft power. They wanted India to emerge as a pole of attraction for the rest of Asia to counter the influence of China.

    9. The foundations for a new strategic relationship between India and the US were laid even during the presidency of Bill Clinton. During his visit to India in 2000, Clinton and Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, agreed on a new vision document to govern bilateral relations. The first six years of the Clinton Presidency (1993 to 1999) were wasted years so far as Indo-US relations were concerned. India’s nuclear tests of May 1998, and the strong US reactions to them and its joining hands with China during Clinton’s visit to China shortly after the tests in opposing India’s legitimate nuclear aspirations added to India’s negative vibrations towards the US. The Clinton Administration’s support to India during India’s Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999 saw a turning point in the US policy-formulation towards India. Clinton’s successful visit to India in 2000 gave a further momentum to the attempted move of the relations in a positive direction, but in the few months left before he completed his term of office, Clinton could not give concrete shape to the new vision.

    10. The first four years of the Bush Presidency too were wasted years in Indo-US relations. The preoccupation of the Bush Administration with the war against Al CIA-da and the Taliban in the Af-Pak region and with the war in Iraq and its dependence on the regime of Gen.Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan came in the way of any vigorous thinking on the US relations towards India. The first signs of a new thinking in Washington DC on the importance of encouraging and helping India to take up its place as a pre-eminent power of Asia, on par with China, came during the visit of Rice to India in March 2005 and the subsequent visit of Manmohan Singh to the US in July 2005.

    11. The Indo-US agreement on civilian nuclear co-operation signed during Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July 2005 marked the beginning of the process of discarding the past and moving to the future which was beckoning the two countries. India was taken out of the nuclear dog house. The promises made by the Clinton Administration to transfer dual-use technologies to India on a case-by-case basis, which had remained unfulfilled, were taken up once again with greater seriousness of purpose. Indian policy-makers were in a mood to consider weapon purchases from the US, ridding themselves of past fears that the US would be an undependable supplier of spare parts which could be stopped for political reasons. Fears of US undependability remained strong, but there was a realization that these fears should not be allowed to come in the way for considering new options for the future. For the first time in two decades, an attempt was made by the Bush Administration in its second term to reduce the trust deficit between India and the US and increase the mutual comfort level.

    12. The one year of Barack Obama as the President has unfortunately not been a totally positive experience for India. There were hopes and dupes. What was seen as the Obama Administration’s courting of China resulted in a diminution of the importance of India as a counter to China. US economic difficulties partly accounted for this courting. There were other reasons too. The Obama Administration did not see China as a likely threat to the US influences in Asia in the same manner as the Bush Administration did. There was a feeling that the US and China could live and let live in Asia without stepping on each other’s toes.

    13. The unmistakable anxiety of the Obama Administration to be attentive to China’s concerns and sensitivities resulted in the discarding of the Bush Administration’s ideas such as a democracy quadrilateral involving the US, India, Japan and Australia and the five-power naval exercises in the waters of South-East Asia involving the Navies of the US, India, Singapore, Japan and Australia.

    14.India was no longer seen as a power, which should be encouraged and helped to reach an equality of status with China. The tacit US decision to recognize China’s pre-eminence in Asia was evident in the decision of Obama to legitimize a Chinese role as a benign influence in South Asia during his visit to China in November,2009. This action of the Obama Administration, more than anything else, surprised India and was strongly criticized by many Indian analysts.

    15.The failure of Manmohan Singh’s talks with Obama during his State visit to Washington later in November,2009, to give a push forward to the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal added to India’s disappointments. The delay in the implementation has been attributed to the Obama Administration’s reluctance to transfer to India uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Despite the flurry of spins by the advisers of Manmohan Singh it is obvious that the no-changers in the US in respect of nuclear co-operation, who are believed in India to be close to Obama, are once again influencing policy and Obama is disinclined to overrule them.

    16. On Pakistan too, the past is back to haunt India. India’s hopes that Obama will take a strong line towards Pakistan and will stop the past pampering of Pakistan by different Administrations have been belied. India has been noting with unease the repeated comments from Obama and others about the need for a regional approach----whether in relation to the restoration of normalcy in Afghanistan or the fight against jihadi terrorism emanating from the Pakistani territory.

    17.Pakistani analysts such as Ahmed Rashid have been able to sell the idea to the advisers of Obama that a regional approach would have to address the concerns of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment over what they view as the increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan. This presence is viewed by the military-intelligence establishment as detrimental to Pakistan's historic interests in Afghanistan and its internal security, particularly in Balochistan. Till 2004, the Bush Administration was attentive to Pakistani concerns and sought to discourage an increase in the Indian presence in Afghanistan. Its policy changed thereafter due to the belief that greater interactions between India and Afghanistan could contribute to the strengthening of democracy and governance in Afghanistan.

    18. Similarly, analysts such as Ahmed Rashid have been trying to convince Obama and his advisers that without a more active role by the US in facilitating a search for a solution to the Kashmir issue, there will be no incentive for Pakistan to act sincerely and effectively against the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. The Bush Administration was disinclined to follow an activist policy on Kashmir and accepted India's stand that it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan in which others should have no role. Obama and his advisers seem prepared to revisit this policy, if not immediately, at least at a later date.

    19. The revived drag of the past has fortunately not reversed the move towards the future. The credit for this should largely go to Manmohan Singh, who seems convinced more than any other Indian leader that periodic disappointments and misperceptions, which are inevitable in the relations between the two biggest democracies and pluralist societies of the world, should not be allowed to damage their joint vision for the future. They should keep moving forward despite such disappointments and misperceptions. That is what India has been doing.

    20. All major political formations in India barring the communists and large sections of its people want closer relations with the US and the forward momentum to be maintained. The large community of Indian origin in the US, which has been in the forefront of the intellectual and managerial class of the US, are an important driving force in this regard. So too, their relatives in India. Young Indians continue to look upon the US with fascination. They have no memories of the past. They have no time and patience for the political and politicized arguments of the no-changers in India. They welcomed the changes brought about by Manmohan Singh in our perceptions of the US and want these changes to continue.

    21. The forward movement, therefore, continues----with varying velocity. And it will continue. But disappointments will continue to take place too. Such disappointments will be as much due to India as they would be due to the US. No thinking has ever been done in India as to what it expects out of a long-term strategic relationship with the US. It is often the US which decides what it will give to India and it is New Delhi which accepts. India's expectations from the US in the past were limited to US pressure on Pakistan to stop using terrorism against India, removal of restrictions on the supply of modern dual-use technologies to India and US support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council. They remain the same. Any strategic relationship has to be a quid pro quo relationship. Since the US has hardly any dependence on India in any matter, there is no scope for any quid pro quo.

    22.India visualizes itself as an Asian power on par with China. Beijing does not see it this way. China views India as a sub-regional Asian power and wants to keep its influence restricted to its immediate neighborhood. Obama's visit to China has uncomfortably brought out to India that there is a convergence of perceptions between China and the Obama Administration on the limited regional role of India. China's pre-eminence has been recognized by Obama. He has re-hyphenated India-Pakistan relations and quietly relegated India to the role of a sub-regional power whose aspirations of having a status on par with China are unrealistic.

    23.In geopolitical matters, there is no futuristic thinking in India. The quality of Indian thinking and analysis----strategic and tactical----is poor. What passes for analysis in India is often wishful-thinking. Nobody in India has realized and brought out that for the first time the US, Japan and Australia have a leadership which does not rate highly India's potential as an emerging power. There is less and less talk of Chindia.

    24. Someone once said that power and influence are not given. They are taken. China has shown how to take it. India does not have the political will and courage to fight for it and take it. It is hoping that the US will give it. Bush and Condolleezza Rice seemed inclined to bestow on India the status of an Asian power on par with China. The Obama Administration does not seem to be so inclined.

    25. Policy changes in India are rarely preceded by a debate in depth on the implications of the contemplated changes. The change of policy towards the US was brought about by Manmohan Singh without a national debate in public or in the Parliament on the wisdom of the change. Whatever debate was there in the Parliament with reference to the nuclear deal tended to be more an exchange of rhetoric than an analysis of facts and figures. There is hardly any effort to bring about a national consensus on foreign policy. When changes are driven by a determined individual and not by a national debate and consensus, there is a danger of the policy being jettisoned if the disappointments continue.

    23. Can that happen to the Indo-US strategic relationship? Unlikely. The large public and particularly youth support for a forward-moving Indo-US relationship is a guarantee that the forward movement will continue....