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Monday, 11 January 2010

Pakistan-US Relationship: A Dream, A Need


Pakistan-US relations that had soured after 1990, warmed up after 9 11 when Pakistan agreed to fight US coined war on terror as a frontline state. Their relations are apparently still friendly but clouded in suspicions and mistrust. Whatever steps taken by government of Pakistan for the benefit of US interests and at the cost of earning displeasure of the people of Pakistan are received with mixed feelings. No sooner Pakistan’s actions are applauded by some US officials; these are promptly washed off by other officials or US media through censures and ‘do more mantra’. Barring few, there is general consensus in Pakistan that it has suffered immensely because of its purported friendship with USA. It has lost much more and gained very little. Indian factor has played a prominent role in coloring the perceptions of US officials and widening trust deficit. Indian lobbyists are feverishly burning midnight oil to further widen this gulf and to turn USA hostile against Pakistan. They would have succeeded in their designs if the US military had achieved some of the objectives of war on terror and had gained an upper edge in Afghanistan and US economy had remained stable.

The US had to reconsider its policies in the wake of continuously deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which forced Obama Administration to rush in 21000 additional troops from Iraq in 2009 to stabilize the situation. US-UK joint operation in Helmand turned into a fiasco and ISAF suffered heavy casualties. When no improvement could be affected another heavy reinforcement of 30000 is being dispatched. This is in spite of US claim that not more than 100 Al-Qaeda operatives are operating in Afghanistan. At the same time, Washington has decided to start pulling out its troops from Afghanistan by July 2011 onwards and has also stepped up its efforts to win over Taliban. Its futile endeavour is however to break linkage between Al-Qaeda and Taliban and to invest in alternative leadership of Taliban that can stand up against Mulla Omar. It has not made breakthrough on any front. Death of seven CIA agents at US base in Khost is the latest debacle and an indication that Taliban-Al-Qaeda nexus is intact.

Looking around, one finds obtaining situation in Central Asian Republics (CAR) where US economic interests reside unfavourably disposed towards USA. This is because of resurgence of Russia and its increasing grip over CAR, growing military and economic power of China and defiance of nuclear North Korea. Nuclearization of Iran and its anti-Israel and anti-US policies are a pain in the neck both for USA and Israel. And so is Iraq where the US having shed river of blood and spent colossal amounts has failed to stabilize it. Shia elements aligned with Iran are ruling the roost. Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon refuse to get cowed down by Israeli belligerence and remain in a fighting mood. Turkey which had refused use of its airspace and territory to US troops for invasion of Iraq from the north in 2003 retains its Islamic identity and independence of thought and action. Syria too maintains its warrior spirit against USA and Israel. It had fiercely reacted to a single drone attack on a border village last year which restrained USA from making another attempt. Whole of impoverished Africa is in ferment because of western looters policy of divide and rule and wanton plunder of their wealth.

Al-Qaeda has grown in size and strength. Apart from its bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has bases in Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and North Africa. While Yemen has heated up, in Somalia, Al-Shabaab linked with al-Qaeda has gained control over more than 90% of Somali territory. Al-Qaeda is linked with all Islamic movements like Afghan Taliban, Chechnya movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Islamic movements in certain Far Eastern Asian countries. US ambassador in Islamabad has admitted that the US has credible information that large number of terrorists are homing towards Yemen and Somalia. Till recent the flow from Africa and Iraq was in the opposite direction. This reversal of tide has occurred because of brilliant successes achieved by Pak Army in Swat, South Waziristan and other troubled spots in the northwest. Pro-active and aggressive posture adopted by Pak army together with planned troop surge in Afghanistan has shrunk space for the militants forcing them to flee to safer havens elsewhere.

Somali coast off Indian Ocean has become another hotspot where pirates have posed a serious challenge to western commercial interests. From 2008 onwards, several daring raids have been carried out by Somali sea pirates to seize foreign ships for ransom. This practice is still continuing despite formation of joint counter-piracy force by Asian-Western countries. All these militant activities in various parts of Muslim world indicate that Al-Qaeda that was confined to Afghanistan till September 2001 has spread its tentacles far and wide and has now become an international organization. Aiman al-Zahawari based in Iraq has emerged as a strong and influential leader and like Osama bin Laden has successfully evaded worldwide hunt against him.

War on terror instead of getting curbed has become uncontrollable. It has not only made the lives of Americans highly insecure but has also made the world as a whole unsafe. Lots of hopes were pinned on Barack Obama to undo wrongful policies of George W. Bush and to promote peace and harmony in the world. He has proved to be huge disappointment. Instead of calling off senseless war on terror he is stoking it further. Resurgence of Taliban power in Afghanistan has deflated his fervour to some extent but not his resolve since he feels that he somehow would lose next election if he adopts defensive strategy. He has however been forced to revise his Pakistan specific Af-Pak policy in which the two countries were integrated into a single battle zone and India given a key role in Afghan affairs. It has belatedly dawned upon his team that what to talk of turning defeat into victory, exit from Afghanistan would become impossible without Pakistan support. This realization has compelled Washington to keep Pakistan on board with a heavy heart and it is these days trying to show its soft face.

Not only about 80% of Afghan territory has come under the influence of Taliban, rigged presidential election has made the position of unpopular Karzai more fragile. Performance of Afghan security forces predominated by non-Pashtuns is below average. The US is spending huge amount to expand and upgrade the quality of National Army and the police so that frontline duties could be assigned to them within next two years. There is however little hope for tangible improvement without the induction of Pashtuns. Likewise, Afghan regime will be unable to gain credibility as long as Pashtuns are denied their rightful share in power.

Rumbling within NATO countries based in Afghanistan is getting louder since they can see the writing on the wall. So is the case with American public which no more supports war on terror and wants its soldiers to return home. The US has so far spent over $38 billions but anti-Americanism among the Afghans has multiplied since they want them to leave. Anti-Americanism in Pakistan too has peaked because of biased and discriminatory policies pursued by Washington. Latest provocative step is the new discriminatory law framed to screen visiting Pakistanis on American ports while excusing India.

The US can upturn its image in Pakistan if it stops drone attacks in FATA and provide civilian nuclear deal to Pakistan similar to the one provided to India. It can boost its image if it forcefully forbids India to carryout covert operations against Pakistan using Afghan soil and restrains it from stealing Pakistan water. Other steps that can help build trust and confidence are construction of hydel power projects and provision of greater access to US and EU markets for Pakistani products. Pakistanis will become pro-America and be a willing partner to safeguard US interests from a position of respect and honour if the US helps Pakistan in easing the debt burden and plays a pro-active role to solve longstanding Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris and UN Resolutions. These two acts would go a long way in dispelling misgivings and mistrust harboured by people of Pakistan and in building mutually sustaining and durable strategic partnership premised on mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust.

Practically, such an occurrence is far-fetched and a pipedream since Indo-Israeli lobbies enjoying strong influence over policy makers in USA would never allow it to happen. In 2010, distrust and antagonism would accelerate rather than de-escalate since the security situation in Afghanistan would keep spinning out of control. It would leave politically weakened Obama Administration with no choice other than to continue following Indo-Israel dictated dual faced policies of harming Pakistan under the garb of friendship. While making Pakistan more dependent upon IMF and US aid, tunnel-vision US leaders would release aid miserly, keep on blaming Pakistan for US failures and intensifying pressure to commence operation against Maulvi Nazir, Gul Bahadur and Haqqani network and intensifying as well as widening scope of drones. At the same time, it would keep expanding its presence in Pakistan to be able to hunt Pak nukes. Such hypocritical recourse would give short term benefits to India and Israel and a sadistic pleasure to USA but in the long run all will be losers. Those wishing for mutually beneficial relationship are living in cloud-cuckoo-land.                                 

Brig Asif Haroon is Member Board Of Advisors, Opinion Maker, has been a Defence Attache at Cairo. He is a defence and security analyst who has authored 5 books.

Story Of My Mother

Proud to be a Pakistani

Next target: Yemen

Farooq Sulehria

Yemen has become the focus of media attention in the wake of the foiled attempt to blow up a US airliner by Umar Farooq Abdul Muttalab on Dec 25. The US mainstream media is busy portraying Yemen as a ‘’failed state,” and hence a legitimate target for US aggression.

Yemen is the poorest of all Arab countries, with 40 percent living below the poverty line, and the writ of government is hardly in existence there. Ninety of the 200 detainees now held at Guantanamo, we are told, hail from Yemen. Footage of picturesque Ribat Baashen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral village, spices up the coverage to reinforce Yemen’s image as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda.

A tribal society of 23 million, with 60 million guns, Yemen, it seems, will be Empire’s next front. American corporate media, in unison with the US establishment, are suffering from amnesia-as-usual. Hence, no mention is made of the fact that during the Cold War Washington backed the Islamist regime in North Yemen against “socialists” ruling South Yemen, which has since merged with the North. Similarly, thousands of Yemeni citizens reached Afghanistan to fight back the infidel Reds.

In the country’s 1994 civil war, Yemenis returning from Afghanistan helped secure the rule of incumbent president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978. For these Afghan veterans, suppression of godless South Yemen was a logical continuation of their victorious jihad in Afghanistan.

True, the present focus on Yemen owes to Republican criticism of the Obama administration over the evident security failure despite an alarm raised by the Nigerian suspect’s father. A military action is likely to offer a distraction.

However, it is Yemen’s highly strategic location that interests Empire. Adjacent to Saudi Arabia (the world’s largest oil exporter) and the Red Sea (controlling access to the Suez Canal), Yemen also borders on the Gulf of Aden, the westward shipping route for much of the oil leaving the Persian Gulf.

From the Red Sea, some three million barrels of crude oil are shipped daily to the West. US military forces are already deployed in Djibouti, to oversee this passage. In view of Yemen’s strategic location in the ongoing ‘’war on terror,’’ which translates into occupation of strategic Muslim countries in western Asia, the $11 million US military assistance to Yemen in 2006 had by 2009 quadrupled to $70 million. The US Congress is likely to approve $150 million for 2010.

What also worries Washington is that 40 per cent of the country’s population is Shia Muslim, receiving support from Iran in an insurgency (which rendered 175,000 homeless since August) against Sanaa. Riyadh, however, is even more worried. Hence, it lent Yemen $2 billion last year and committed its forces last November to quell the Shia insurgency.

Meantime, Americans have been closely watching Yemen. Only last summer CIA deputy director Stephen Kappes and David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East, called on President Saleh. In September John Brennan, Obama’s advisor on anti-terrorism, paid a visit to Sanaa. These visits resulted in a US-Yemeni joint air and ground offensive against presumed Al-Qaeda camps near the capital and in the provinces of Shabwah, Al-Jawf and Abyan.

Abdul Muttalab, it is believed, boarded the Detroit-bound flight to avenge these attacks. With Yemen having exhausted its oil reserves and facing an acute water crisis, the country’s dictator needs US money as well as US protection. For Saleh, Al-Qaeda is an excuse to secure US patronage. After all, he himself has been patronising Al-Qaeda in the past. His real worry is the Shia insurgency and a secessionist movement in the south.

Yemen’s analogy to Pakistan under Musharraf is indeed striking: blowback from the Afghan war, dictatorship in need of US patronage, writ of state largely missing, an ideal terrain for guerrilla warfare (as in Pakistan’s north) and a society seething with anti-Americanism. This is a recipe for perfect disaster.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Sweden. Email: mfsulehria@hotmail.com

Is India really playing nasty with Iran?

Afshain Afzal

The successful launch of Sejil-2 missile by Iran that can target Israel and US did not surprise both these countries as India had already leaked sufficient information on Iranian missile project. Because of the same forecast, Washington was pushing the world community and United Nations for tougher sanctions against Tehran. Iran is well aware of Indian role in espionage for US and Israel.

With the surfacing of Indo-US-Israel troika, India’s long awaited desire to win over Iran to her side against Pakistan and other Muslim countries seems fading away. Although in the recent years there was a record growth in the bilateral relations between India and Iran but latest India-US-Israel collaboration against the Muslim world has cautioned Iranian government and political analysts in Tehran. Indian modus operandai against Muslims remains that it creates misunderstanding between Muslim countries, which finally lead to suspicion and hostile relations. In a conspiracy against Pakistan, India made a lot of material investment and sacrificed precious time of her Intelligence agencies in order to share so called self-engineered red hot information with US, Israel and at times with Iran.

It is interesting to note that the state of art technical equipment provided by US and Israel to collect intelligence pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme and movement of Iranian Armed Forces, especially the Iranian Navy is also utilized against countries like Pakistan to provide selected information to please strategic partners. The sole aim of India is to isolate Pakistan from Iran in order to create her hegemony over the entire region. In another recent development, a secret Indo-US agreement has been recently concluded by virtue of which India has agreed upon to transfer data regarding Iranian nuclear programme including monitoring of nuclear radiation-emission through human intelligence as well as from India satellite RISAT. It need to be kept in mind that US has started installation of two nuclear reactors on selected Indian sites as a reward for furnishing information against Iranian secrets. Due to US and Israeli growing influence over India, despite New Delhi’s generous offers to Iran in the field of military hardware as well as infrastructure, Iran has always looked towards India with suspicion. No doubt that there are numerous agreements inked between the two countries to jointly counter terrorism and extremism but India failed to get recognition of trusted friend in the eyes of an ordinary Iranian. The Iranian intelligence is well aware of India’s long term designs in the region and as a defensive strategy, New Delhi is being kept at safe distance. Despite Iranian careful dealings, India is constantly disseminating important intelligence to Non-Muslim world regarding Iran’s religious activities in Qom, Mashed and Muqadas shrine, portraying it as anti West and more threatening than the Al-Qaida. Thus purely religious practices are painted as some sort of an attempt to take over the world by a revolution. Indian Consulate General Zahidan and Indian Embassy Tehran have become Indian intelligence agency RAW’s breeding ground for agents. Diplomats of Indian Embassy Tehran and Consulate General Zahidan were photographed by Afghan intelligence agencies holding confidential meetings with leaders of Mujahideen-e-Khalq and Jandollah group in Dubai, Zabal and Zarang in Afghanistan.

Many analysts get confused to observe that when India’s collaboration with US and Israel is being monitored by Iran, why Tehran is unable to discontinue diplomatic relations with India. In fact, Iran at this critical juncture cannot give India a blunt reply because of her fear of isolation. Iran is very clear that the India will not only allow US and Israeli planes to use its bases but will also extend full strategic and logistic support if pre-emptive military strikes are carried out to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. In fact, the Israeli Air Force had even held an exercise over the Mediterranean in June 2008, which was widely believed to be the simulation of a strike against Iranian nuclear installations. Among the 52 joint combat exercises between India and US in the last seven years, the Red Flag air combat exercise in US in 2008 and Yudh Abanas in 2009 are excellent examples of Indo-US nexus against Iranian Nuclear and missile installations.

India’s past record vis-à-vis Iran had been very poor. India played a major role in developing a consensus against Iran’s nuclear programme. It even did not bother the long-standing ties with Iran, when it voted against Iran in the IAEA Board of Governors’ meetings in September 2005 and March 2006. Presently India is trying hard to mend fences with Iran. However, the last year’s incident of not permitting the Indian aircrafts to fly over Iranian territory is indicative that Iran has lost its trust over India and that she has realized that it is India which is disseminating secrets of Iranian strategic and tactical targets to US and Israel. In the recent past, the espionage activities of Indian diplomats in Afghanistan came into the notice of Iran and United Arab Emirates, when personnel of Indian Border Road Organization (BRO) and Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were caught red handed carrying out highly objectionable activities. Presently, Presently, Iran security forces have disallowed the Indian agents to us Iranian soil against Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India’s Iran Policy has miserably failed rather its long-standing ties with Iran has been strained. Although the India’s past record will never encourage any leadership in Tehran to maintain relations of trust with New Delhi but Iran at the same time will not refuse a friendly handshake with India, to avoid international isolation. Supported by powerful print and electronic media, India’s policy in the region aimed at maintaining hegemony over the entire region through its bluff game. It is right time for Iran to neutralize the activities being carried out by Indian intelligence agency RAW through Indian Embassy Tehran and Indian Consulate General Zahidan.

There is no doubt that India is waging a silent proxy war inside Iran to serve the interests of US and Israel. By and large Indian civilian workers in Iran and the Gulf region have no bad intentions against Islamic Republic of Iran but Indian Armed Forces personnel and its intelligence agents are working against Iranian interests to please US and Israel.