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The Death of CENTO’s Ghost: How the US Lost the Four Great Powers of Southwest Asia

By Martin SIEFF | Strategic Culture Foundation | 14.09.2018

CENTO – the Central Treaty Organization launched by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1958 is totally forgotten now. Even most regional experts on the Middle East and South Asia remember nothing about it. But it had a surprisingly long afterlife of 60 years, and its final, complete dissolution happening now before our eyes marks an epochal transformation of the Eurasian-Southwest Asia World Island.

CENTO – originally known as the Baghdad Pact or the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) – was formed in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom with the blessing of the United States. The British saw it – farcically as it turned out – as an attempt to retain the phantom, craved after “influence” of their vanishing empire, which had left Pakistan in 1947.

METO did not last long. Within three years, the British –imposed and directed monarchy of the Hashemite dynasty in Baghdad had been literally wiped out in a bloody massacre. Iraq immediately pulled out of METO as fast as it could. METO was renamed CENTO with Eisenhower’s approval in 1958. One of the four “pillars” of the Anglo-American world order in South and Southwest Asia was down: Three to go.

Next to go was Iran in 1979. Its last Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was a megalomaniac egged on by American liberal social engineers who farcically imagined they could recreate President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in Tehran. Millions of people were upended from their homes in enormous industrial and relocation programs while SAVAK, the Shah’s notorious secret police inflicted a reign of torture and terror.

The end result was the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that swept away the Shah and took Iran forever out of the Anglo-American orbit. After that, CENTO was finally officially dissolved. Eisenhower’s dream was dead and gone. But its ghost would endure for another 39 years.

Two down and two to go: For the next 40 years Pakistan and Turkey both remained strong, consistent and important US allies. After 2001, tensions between Washington and Islamabad inexorably grew as the US invasion of Afghanistan and its following endlessly bungled policies to build a so-called modern, democratic and centralized nation backfired in endless war.

This year, Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), simultaneously with its next door neighbor India. Both nations turned their back on US claims of global hegemony and opted instead for a future of cooperation and security with Russia and China in the SCO.

That left only Turkey of the original METO or Baghdad Pact four still in the US orbit. Turkey remains a NATO member as it has been since 1955: The same year it also joined METO. However, since the failed Turkish military coup of June 2016, US –Turkish relations have plunged to their worst state ever. The US Congress seems intent on pouring ever more gasoline of the funeral pyre of the relationship.

Yet Turkey is vastly more important to US, European, NATO and Middle East security than all the tiny and ludicrous nation-building schemes Washington has pursued in the region over the past 25 years put together.

US policymakers – Republican and Democrat alike – remain obsessed with “creating” new “showcase,” supposedly “modern” and “democratic” states in Kurdistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. They see the tiny three Baltic States, Georgia and even Ukraine with its neo-Nazi militias as shining examples that are supposed to inspire the rest of the world to follow the same Washington-directed paths.

None of these American visionary “geniuses” ever stops to remember why Iraq and then Iran opted out of METO/CENTO as fast as they possibly could. None of them stops to consider what the consequences of losing the friendship and trust of nuclear-armed Pakistan with its population of 200 million will be. None of them has ever raised publicly the issue of how totally untenable the reckless US forward naval and strategic deployment in the Black Sea will be if Turkey finally turns its back on the US and NATO.

CENTO is gone. The Baghdad Pact is dead. Now even CENTO’s ghost is dying: The four great buffer powers that the US and the UK looked upon to dominate the northern tier of Southwest and South Asia have abandoned Washington or are about to do so. The consequences of this development – born of a generation of stupid, heedless and selfish US policy bungles – will reshape the world.

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nasrallah: Resistance Axis triumphs, US’ & Israel’s Wars are Over

Speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on August 14, 2018, for the celebration of the twelfth anniversary of the 2006 victory.

Transcript:

The 2006 War and ISIS, two US Projects for Israel’s Sake

I seek refuge in God against the stoned devil.

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds, and prayers and salutations be upon our Master and Prophet, the Seal of the Prophets Muhammad, upon his pure and noble family, his chosen and faithful companions and all the Prophets and Messengers.

Peace be upon you all, and God’s mercy and His blessings.

O my brothers and sisters, I congratulate you on this day, the day of our historic and divine victory that God, in His benevolence, has granted you and Lebanon, the peoples of our region and the (Arab and Muslim) Community, thus registering a clear victory that upset many equations.

First, my thanks to God the Most High, who has protected us, supported us and granted us victory, pouring on us His Benefits that are impossible to count. And I thank and salute all those who have shaped this victory and took part (in one way or another) in shaping and achieving it, be they men of the Resistance, of the army and security forces, of the various factions of the Resistance, martyrs, wounded, prisoners and their families, refugees, steadfast and patient people and all those who made sacrifices, current and past Presidents, religious, political, military and security leaders, parties, forces, movements, committees, organizations, media, all the brave people of Lebanon and of the entire Arab and Islamic world, and all around the world. And special thanks are due to those who firmly stood by our side during this war, namely the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic for their historical position alongside us.

O my brothers and sisters… I read the thanks quickly, and by the grace of God, the titles will be inclusive [of all those who contributed to the victory] so I’m not forced to mention (them one by one) in detail.

We celebrate this anniversary today (the victory of 2006), which is dear to us. It’s been twelve years since we won this victory, and we emphasize the importance of the celebration of this occasion. Similarly, God willing, we will celebrate in a few days in the city of Hermel the first anniversary of the Second Liberation (of Lebanon) –we must also hold the celebration of this date dear– against terrorism and takfiri groups.

And just as we were victorious during the July (2006) War, I wish to state that what happened for seven years and until now is a Great July (2006) War on the entire region, aiming to achieve the same objectives, the same project and the same hopes that the July 2006 War endeavoured to achieve. And as we came out of the July 2006 war victorious, we will come out soon, with God’s grace, victorious in this Great (World) War against our region and against the Resistance Axis in our region, to celebrate this divine, historical and major victory, which is close, very close, and will happen very soon.

We stress the importance of this celebration in order to emphasize the importance of the feat accomplished, to honor those who shaped this feat –the fighters, the martyrs, those who have made sacrifices and their leaders, the honorable, loyal and sincere people–, to root this victory in the feelings, culture and (collective) consciousness, to open the horizon and give new hopes against the waves of despair and humiliation, in the face of the inhibition of wills and appeals to surrender, to draw lessons and to consolidate our points of strength.

Today… As I speak today and I am going to make another speech in a few days (dedicated to the August 2017 Liberation from ISIS), I will discuss the 2006 war and the regional situation together as a single point, with a part I will complete in my next speech in Hermel, and I will say a few words about the internal situation (in Lebanon), and I also will complete them in my speech in Hermel.

If we go back to 2006, everyone remembers that the objectives of the war were to achieve the American project at the time, which was led by George Bush and his administration, after they occupied Afghanistan and Iraq and arrived at the borders of Syria and the Islamic Republic (of Iran). There was a major project in the region, for which targets were set. The 2006 war was fundamental in this project, and when it failed, the project collapsed with it.

Of course, afterwards, they made new studies and new careful calculations, and have engaged in a new plan. So there was a plan for the US hegemony project aiming to crown Israel as a fundamental, leading and axial element in the (project of a) New Middle East. The plan fell apart when we came out victorious in the 2006 war, when the Resistance in Gaza came out victorious, when Syria and Iran stood steadfast, and they then developed a new plan, the one against which we have fought in recent years and to this day.

Let us return to the 2006 plan. I am not doing a journalistic analysis, I am talking about things we have experienced and which were required from us. Remember, the purpose of this war was to end the Resistance once and for all, to annihilate it, either militarily or by forcing us to surrender, and that is what was required from us during the first days of the war: “Give up your weapons, all your weapons for the war to end.” But we were not only required to disarm. “Accept multinational forces…” Not international forces, not forces from the United Nations, but forces directly dependent on the US administration, like those who occupied Iraq in 2003. “Accept multinational forces at the Lebanese border with (occupied) Palestine, multinational forces at Lebanon’s border with Syria, and multinational forces at the airport and port of Beirut. In short, accept a new occupation that will be designated as the multinational forces, and hand us over both (Israeli soldiers) prisoners unconditionally.”

If Lebanon had fallen, it was planned to continue the project in the same year in Syria in 2006, and against the Palestinian Resistance in Gaza. But the (victorious) Resistance of Lebanon postponed the war against Gaza by two years. And it was planned to besiege Iran to isolate it and then strike it and put an end to this (Resistance) Axis, and forever. Such was (the plan) in 2006.

The (victorious) Resistance of Lebanon made these objectives and plan collapse, and pushed back the aspirations of the United States and Israel in our region for several years, taking us into a new battle, and caused very significant developments: it not only foiled the objectives (of the enemy), but it caused very important developments. It increased the power of the Resistance in Lebanon, Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and (all) the region.

This victory took place, and no one (kindly) granted it to us: it is neither the Security Council, nor the UN, nor the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, nor the Arab League nor the Arab regimes that shaped this victory, but it was a blessing of God Almighty and Exalted and of the sacrifices of our people, of his patience and of his (victorious) Resistance, and thanks to the fact that he stayed on his land and came back to it (very promptly, as soon as the cease-fire was declared), thanks to the blood of its martyrs, the courage of its Mujahideen and fighters, and the steadfastness of the political position. We arrived at a new stage. I will not talk (any longer) about 2006, and I now turn to the current situation.

Well, today, during these “seven terrible years” (cf. Qur’an 12, 48), they brought the region into war, and even into several wars, all aimed at achieving the same previously stated objectives. And their axis is Israel, their goal is Israel and the strengthening and rooting of Israel (in the region) and his consecration as the (undisputed) master of this region. Therefore I will allow myself to speak (at length) about the situation in the region in relation to Israel. That is to say, where are they today, and where do we stand, even if it takes a bit of time, because we lead a battle for awareness, for will, for hope: today, these are the real titles of the battle waged in recent years, during those years and in the coming years.

So we will consider Lebanon in terms of the fight against Israel, as well as Syria, Palestine, Gaza and (all) the region. For all that happened aimed to serve Israel and its interests. I will not talk about the situation seven years ago (beginning of the war in Syria), but from where we are after those seven years, that also are seven years of steadfastness, strength, endurance, sacrifice and bloodshed (for our cause). Where is their project, where are they, and where are we, what are the position and situation of the Resistance Axis?

Hezbollah is stronger than Israel

Let’s start with Israel and Lebanon. How are things between Israel and Lebanon since 2006 to date, in 2018? It is clear that Israel is deterred (from any aggression against Lebanon). This Israel who, all his life, was attacking Lebanon for the most trivial reasons –its planes were bombing the south, the Bekaa, the North, Mount Lebanon, even the heart of the capital. You all remember the situation before 1982 and after 1982. But things have changed, and Israel does no such thing today. And it’s not because of good manners (allegedly acquired by) Israel, but thanks to the (deterrent) equation imposed by the Resistance.

Today, Israel, since 2007 to date, continually rebuilds and refounds itself in the light of its (2006) defeat and of the consequences of this defeat. They reviewed their combat doctrine, their military strategies and tactics –each time a new Chief of staff takes office, he writes a new strategy for the Israeli army–, their structure, the training of their forces, they have reconsidered their facilities and equipment and weapons, they continually hold maneuvers since 2006 and until yesterday, yesterday, there were maneuvers in the north.

Why? Why all these maneuvers, these reconsiderations, etc.? Because they consider that in Lebanon, there is a force that worries them (greatly), and that is to them, in their words, a “great threat” the “main threat”, and they are preparing to face it (at their best). (Throughout its history), when did we find Israel behaving this way towards Lebanon? (Never before 2006).

Israel hides itself behind the walls (it erected at the border) with Lebanon. They work constantly on their home front, and set out their fears at this level. Today, in every action –and I am not revealing secrets, even their media speak of it–, Israel considers (the risks of strikes against) the electricity, gas, oil, its gas facilities, the colonies, the depth, etc., because they know that in front of them, there is a serious, powerful and capable enemy. And I will conclude on this in a decisive sentence.

Israel carries out a (diligent) monitoring of the forces of the Resistance. Since 2006, they gather information about us, our weapons, the number of our fighters, our actions, our expertise. And when we went to Syria, they watched us (constantly), (worried) about our new acquisitions in experience and expertise in Syria. And as regards Lebanon (Hezbollah), it takes a very serious and very important place in their calculations.

Until we come to… Throughout its existence, Israel had never erected defenses in northern (occupied) Palestine. If defensive measures were required, it was in southern Lebanon (because Israel was always on the offensive). For the first time in the history of the Zionist entity, defensive lines are built in the north of Palestine to face the project of Liberation of Galilee (announced by Hezbollah). And Israel holds annual military exercises to prepare for that prospect. And field measures are taken and constantly reviewed and improved.

Until a few days ago, as part of the (recent) maneuvers in the north (of occupied Palestine), a senior officer in the Israeli army –this is reported by Israeli newspapers, not myself– said: “Hezbollah is the most powerful army in the Middle East after the Israeli army, because it has this, this, this and that.” Of course, I do not agree with him on this estimate. We do not consider that Hezbollah is the most powerful army in the Middle East after the Israeli army, but this statement expresses how the Israeli enemy sees this Resistance he wanted to eradicate during the July 2006 war.

Today, in 2018, this Resistance is, as I have always said and repeated every year, and allow me to repeat it again today, and the important thing is that the Israeli enemy knows very well that it is the strict, the undeniable truth: yes, the Resistance in Lebanon today, in its arms, its equipment, its capabilities, the number of its fighters, its cadres, its power, its expertise, its experiences, its faith, its determination, its courage and its will is stronger than ever since its launch in this region (in 1982)!

Certainly, Israel can threaten (us with war) every day. Remember, just weeks after the end of the July (2006) war, Israel threatened Lebanon with a vengeful war that was (supposedly) approaching fast. But you can count (the years of peace) with me: where is this war that Israel (continually) threatened us with and for which it asserted itself ready, having supposedly fixed all its shortcomings and faults, promising that it would shortly launch a new war against Lebanon? They threatened us (with war) in 2007, and 2007 has passed (peacefully). (Same thing in) 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, etc., until 2018. For 12 years, Israel has threatened us (permanently) to launch a war (imminently). But while they threaten to launch a war (against us), at the same time, they continue to evoke the fact that the Resistance becomes stronger (by the day) and that its (fire)power is increasing, until one of their officers said that Hezbollah is the most powerful army in the region after the Israeli military.

I want to tell him that we are not the most powerful army in the region after the Israeli military, leave this subject aside, because it is not precise, and we do not want to create problems (by competing) with the armies of the region. But let me say to that senior Israeli officer, on (the date of the commemoration of) the July (2006) War, that Hezbollah is stronger than the Israeli army! The Resistance in Lebanon is stronger than the Israeli army!

For either in 2000 or in 2006, it was never a question of manpower, equipment, quantity, capabilities, weapons or rockets / missiles. Today we have more faith in the righteousness of our cause than you have in your false, usurping cause. Today we are more willing to sacrifice than your miserable army and society, living in worry with many problems and in many files. Today we have more faith and confidence than ever in our God, our Creator and He who granted us victory, ever since God the Almighty and Majestic created us. Today we have more faith, trust and confidence in His Promise of victory addressed to the patients and sincere fighters. This sincerity, this faith and patience, we have them more than ever because of the accumulation of experiences.

When the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali  –peace be upon him–, said in one of his maxims: “War is (like) a debate, sometimes we have the advantage, and sometimes the enemy has the advantage, until God sees our sincerity, then He gives us victory and defeats our enemy.” He did not say “until God sees our weapons, our missiles / rockets, our equipment and our fighters”, but “until God sees our sincerity”. This sincerity, this authenticity and this faith, with which the people of the Resistance, the men of the Resistance and the families of the Resistance fought in 2006, today are bigger, stronger and more rooted (than ever).

And so your calculations are wrong (O Israel): we are not (necessarily) stronger than the other armies (of the region), but we are stronger than you. That’s all regarding Israel (and Lebanon).

Defeated in Syria, Israel begs for the withdrawal of Iran and Hezbollah

Secondly, Israel and Syria. (The United States and Israel) had planned to topple Syria in 2006 if the Resistance in Lebanon had fallen (in the July war). For if the Resistance had been defeated in 2006, they planned to bring multinational forces in Lebanon –because the Israeli army could not have stayed after the war–, US, French, English, Italian forces, etc. These forces were supposed to settle in Lebanon, close the border between Lebanon and Syria and besiege Syria to make it fall. This did not happen. The past seven years (of war) have therefore befallen in order to topple Syria in another way, namely the global war that was launched against Syria.

I will mention only Syria from Israel’s point of view. Israel is a full partner of the project of war against Syria since 2011, and fully participates in decision-making and in the US-Saudi-Western plan. On the ground, Israel has provided all the necessary support to the armed groups in southern Syria, all the logistical & medical support, weapons, food and information, up to occasional military interventions to help these groups. And we all remember, during the last seven years, the statements by Israeli officials who said that President Assad would fall within 3 or 5 months and that the interest of Israel was the fall of the regime. Today, there are people (analysts, journalists, officials) in the Gulf or elsewhere who philosophize about the fact that Israel would never have said anything like that, but anyone can refer to the archives of the past seven years, during which all the leaders of the usurper entity, without exception, expressed hopes that President Assad and the Syrian regime would fall, and that they’d see these (terrorist) groups replace them. The Syrian opposition, who visited the Zionist entity, brought pledges (of friendship), and regarded Israel as a friend, and Israel hoped to see Damascus become an allied or friendly capital instead of being an enemy capital. All this is common knowledge.

Israel had high hopes, during the last seven years of war against Syria, (betting) on ​​the fall of the regime and its replacement by a regime that would hasten towards resolution of disputes with Israel. Israel built hopes on the destruction of the Syrian Army in a way that it could not recover from in the future. Israel built hopes on the fact that the Syrian opposition, which according to their calculations was to seize power, would hasten to conclude (peace) agreements with it. Israel built hopes on the fact that those Syrians who self-identify as “opposition” would give up the Golan Heights (to Israel) in a future agreement. And Israel built hopes on the fact that the international community would give it the Golan and would recognize it as belonging to it because of the developments in Syria, whether the war continued or the regime was overthrown. But what is the situation today? Because we speak about the present.

Such were their hopes, and they worked (relentlessly) to achieve them for seven years, but today, those hopes have been scattered to the four winds. The world is not prepared to give them the Golan –maybe Trump would be willing to recognize (the Golan as Israel’s) but the international community and the world today are (humbly) standing in line to restore relations with Syria and the Syrian State. And for your information, in this line, security services worldwide outnumber diplomats, because today, the world is afraid of the return to their country of tens of thousands (of terrorists) that they have brought to Iraq and Syria from all the over world. What will they do there (attacks, etc.)? That’s why they need Syria and security cooperation with Syria. The world will not give the Golan to Israel nor recognize it as Israel’s, neither in a unilateral gesture, nor under pressure from Trump.

Israel built its hopes on the fall of the Syrian State, but the State maintained itself. Israel hoped the Syrian army would crumble, but yesterday, (Avigdor) Lieberman (Israeli Minister of War) himself said that –these are his words, not mine– it seems that the Syrian Army will return a larger and more powerful army than ever, and during these seven years, it tremendously gained in experience. And everyone knows that the battles fought in Syria (against terrorists) require great minds, unalterable wills and colossal capabilities.

Moreover, before the war, Israel feared the Syrian Army in Syria –there was also the Syrian people that they underestimate, but they are mistaken–, but after the war, Iran and Hezbollah are now added to them. Iran and Hezbollah (are now in Syria). This is a (stunning) failure for Israel. This poses a (huge) problem for Israel. And that is why today, Netanyahu, every day, absolutely every day, (when he speaks) about Syria, he now accepted as a fact the maintenance of the Syrian regime, leaders and even Army, but the battle he leads today, the political battle that he is currently leading like a beggar, is that Iran should not remain in Syria, and Hezbollah should not remain in Syria. And I saw that some journalists and analysts claimed that I was about to announce today the withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria. Tell me, in what (illusory) world do you live? What (kind of nonsense) do you read or watch (on TV)? If someone gives you such information, then he is making fun of you. Such is the problem of Israel today. How is he going to get Iran out of Syria? How will he get Hezbollah out of Syria?

And see the degree of impudence. Israel, who is defeated Syria, seeks to impose its conditions and requirements! You lost. You are defeated. You failed. You lost your bet. Your hopes are scattered to the four winds. And you (think you can) impose your conditions? Of course, I can not say “my dear” to Israel (even ironically). You think you can impose your own terms? On whom do you think you can impose them? On the victorious Syrian leaders? On Iran, on Hezbollah, on the Resistance Axis?

So much for Syria regarding Israel. Now let us speak about Israel in (occupied) Palestine…. Because all this war was fought for Israel, and such is Israel’s situation today. They (miserably) failed here and there, they are (very) worried about this and that, this and that frightens them, they beg for such and such thing…

For example, to return to Lebanon, behind the scenes, you know that there is a lot of US pressure on the Lebanese State to settle the issue of the land and maritime boundary with Israel. But in whose interest? In the interest of Lebanon? No way. They want to settle the issue of the (Lebanese-Israeli) land and maritime boundary in the (exclusive) interest of Israel. And when we speak of the maritime boundary, it also means (the resources in) oil and gas. But that time is over. The time when Israel was imposing its conditions on Syria, the time when Israel was imposing its conditions in Lebanon (is over), even if Israel is (fully) supported by the United States and one hundred United States. This is not an impulsive or emotional statement. This is confirmed by the facts during decades of confrontation, of victorious Resistance, of sacrifice and blood spilled.

Trump and Bin Salman’s “Deal of the century” Failed

Now let us consider (the situation) in Gaza, in Palestine and primarily in Gaza. Despite the destructive war, despite the severe blockade… The United States, Israel and their allies expected Gaza to surrender, and that in exchange for food, medicine, electricity and (drinkable) water, Gaza gives them absolutely everything and accepts the “Deal of the century” and anything else required from them, and accepts any resolution (of the conflict), even at the expense of Palestinian rights. But Gaza has not submitted, has not surrendered and has not signed (the Deal), despite the fact that the whole world has forsook them. The whole world has abandoned them.

And more, Gaza reinstated and upheld the equation of the Resistance, responding to (missile) strikes with strikes, to blood with blood, to fire with fire This is why today, this Israel that strives to convince us that he is the strongest and is about to attack us so that we accept all that he wants to impose, is in a major deadlock even against Gaza. During the debates within the enemy government (in restricted committee), the Ministers are killing and insulting each other because they are lost in their choices against Gaza. Against Gaza the besieged, Gaza the starved, Gaza the abandoned by the whole world, Israel that you claim to be the most powerful army in the Middle East is completely disoriented. One of them said it is best to uphold a truce, even at the cost of concessions (easing of the blockade) to Gaza because we can not move towards war. Another retorted that if one moves towards a truce and grants concessions (to Gaza), maybe the same thing as with the Lebanon will happen, and Gaza will become stronger year after year. Yet another –of course they are all Ministers– exclaims that they must launch a destructive war against Gaza, but someone asks if he considered the retaliation (of the Resistance in Gaza) and recalled that wars were conducted without achieving any results. Yet another promotes the invasion of Gaza and a new occupation, and someone reminds him that they have left Gaza recently. Israel is completely lost, confused and deadlocked. And this is against Gaza. Why? Because Gaza resists, as one man, despite the existing disputes (between Palestinian factions). Gaza makes sacrifices every day, especially every Friday. All this is happening against Gaza.

And it confirms the limits of the power of Israel. Even if they have an (over-armed) military and the most powerful Air force in the region, it does not mean that Israel is almighty. It does not mean that he can do whatever he wants. It does not mean that we are nothing, that we are zero, that they can erase us, that we are out of the equation. Never. Things are not so.

As for Israel, and the Deal of the century, with the arrival in power of Trump, –in this topic, allow me to express myself with even more frankness than I usually do–, with the arrival of Trump in power in the United States, and of Mohammad Bin Salman in power in Saudi Arabia, and with the assumption that the region was heading towards collapse and that the Resistance Axis was going to be eradicated, they concocted the odious Deal of the century, that we all know today, and the best that Israel could ever dream of is that this agreement is realized. For it gives them Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in a final and everlasting way, irrespective of what is located above or below ground, what is east or what is west, they take all Al-Quds, the refugee issue is erased, the existence of Israel in the region is normalized (by relations with all Arab countries) and the Palestinians get a State which is not a State, within a small and narrow extent of territory.

For two years, some have been trying to impose on the peoples and governments of our region the idea that the Deal of the century is a Decree impossible to escape, and that we cannot but accept it. But who says that? Every time they were making agreements and were developing catastrophic solutions (for Palestine), they came to the peoples of the region, to the Resistance movements and governments in the region, stating that this was an inevitable Decree that nobody could prevent. But the truth is quite different.

Today, in light of the developments that have occurred so far… Some believe –and this is an opinion that matters, issued by leading experts and political and strategic thinkers– that the deal of the century is over, that it failed, and that we are just waiting for this to be announced. For my part, I will not say that, because the issue needs further reflection, study and time, but I can tell you that this Deal of the century that Trump wants to impose with all his arrogant strength, and in which he wants to swing a big country in the region that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with other countries, this agreement faces real problems. And there’s a very good chance, if we insist on the equations (of Resistance) which we always talk about, that this agreement will collapse, now more than ever. What are the proofs of this? Why (is it that I can say that)?

First, the unanimous rejection of the Palestinian people towards the Deal of the century. Throughout Palestine, there is no faction, authority, power or popular Resistance, no Palestinian or Palestinian side that supports this agreement. That’s the first point. There is no Palestinian leader, man or representative of the Palestinian people that would agree to sign an agreement giving Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to Israel and making it the eternal capital of Israel. No way. And they (all) announced that. An agreement without Palestinian signature (has no value). Even if they were to impose it by force. If Palestine does not sign, the agreement can not function. And it (really) surprised them. They may have counted on the fact that by putting pressure on the Palestinians, terrorizing them and starving them, or by promising them money or some projects (port, airport…), some Palestinian would come sign such a Deal. (But they were bitterly disappointed).

Second, the fact that the Resistance Axis stood steadfast, that Iran resisted, the victory of Iraq against ISIS crazies & Wahhabi movements funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia, the victory of Syria, the fact that Yemen stood firm, all this extended Axis (from Palestine to Iran), not to mention the developments in Lebanon (victory of the Hezbollah alliance in the elections). All this has its influence. You were getting ready to impose an agreement on the assumption that there would be no more Resistance, Resistance Axis or countries of the Resistance. This is what you imagined a few years ago. But now, the facts are very different from your expectations.

And third, the crisis in the United States themselves, who figure they can come and impose the Deal of the century on the peoples and governments of the region, while they have (serious) problems even with their allies and friends, whether Europe or Turkey –you follow the evolution of this crisis every day–, not to mention Russia and China.

Also, among the most important things that push the Deal of the century to fail, and here I ask you to be pay attention, (I have to mention) the decline of the regional Axis led by Saudi Arabia in the region. This Axis is pushed back and it weakens. What is the proof of that? I speak only of (undeniable) facts, they are accessible, and field data reported by the media. Why?

First, this regional Axis failed completely in Syria, it’s over. It’s (game) over for them. Yes, there is still Idlib, and if it is not over by then, I will speak about it on Sunday (August 26) in Hermel. This Axis has failed in Iraq. This Axis has failed to push the world to besiege Iran and to impose (international) sanctions on Iran with Trump. And this Axis has failed in its war in Yemen.

Today, let me tell you, from my Dahiyeh (southern suburb of Beirut) in Lebanon, to the innocent victims (Dahyan) of Sa’dah, Yemen. O dear, noble and worthy people, especially the families of children who were martyred, know with certainty that those who killed you are the same as those who killed our children in Dahiyeh and in Qana. Those who have shed the blood of your wives and children are the same as those who have shed our blood in Lebanon. The same weapons, the same Axis, the same countries, the same determination, the same decision, and the same behavior. And just as the blood of our children and women triumphed in Lebanon, the blood of your children and wives will triumph in Yemen. Because behind this blood stand truth and justice, as well as (real) men and (authentic) leaders who will not forgive these criminals and bloodthirsty murderers, those who behead all feelings, all morality and all honor. When this Axis arrives at this level of atrocious massacres in Yemen, this is a clear message that militarily, it has failed, that the military option is over. They lost the war, but they want to avenge themselves on the people who inflicted this defeat on them.

And internal crises in Saudi Arabia, the crisis in the Gulf and within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)… The open crisis is with Qatar, but there are also hidden crises within the OIC. (And see the situation) with Canada, because of a minor problem. Now, whether it is because of this problem or in order to please Trump (who is in conflict with Canada), this question should be studied more closely (to respond). Canada has merely raised the issue of human rights and political prisoners with Saudi Arabia, and it caused (an indignant reaction like) Judgment Day in Saudi Arabia, which has denounced interference in its internal affairs, recalled its ambassador and expelled Canada’s, ended the scholarships… They geared up for confrontation and turned everything upside down because of this (alleged) Canada interference in Saudi internal affairs. And this while Saudi Arabia intervenes, fights and supports fighters in Syria and Iraq, is interfering in Iranian affairs, openly announces a war without mercy against Yemen and interferes in all the details of Lebanese affairs –and we all remember the day they arrested the constitutional Prime Minister of Lebanon, just like that. They allow themselves to interfere (wherever they want), but if anyone in the world dares to say: “Respect human rights and release those political prisoners”, they dump on him all the thunders of heaven. What is this mentality? Where are they going?

Anyway, they are experiencing (major) crises. Even with Turkey, they have a serious problem. Because Turkey is convinced that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were involved in the recent coup. Even with the Muslim world, they are in crisis. I give you an example, so that you understand what will happen to the Deal of the century.

In Malaysia, there was a head of government who was with the Saudi dynasty, an instrument of Saud, to whom they gave huge sums of money, and who worked for them for many years, but he was defeated in the elections, and is now behind bars, accused of corruption. And a new government is now in place, with a position (very) different vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, the war against Yemen, sanctions against Iran, relations with Iran, the US administration, the Palestinian cause, the issue of Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Members of the Malaysian government have a (very) different position (towards all these issues).

And it is the same situation in Pakistan, the country where Saudi Arabia has also spent billions of dollars: the leader of the previous government, who was an instrument of Saudi Arabia, is behind bars, charged with corruption. And provided they do not foment a coup against them, a government will be formed and it will have a very different position (from that of Saudi Arabia) on the issue of Al-Quds, Palestine, Gaza, Yemen, Iran and the United States. This is the situation. This (Saudi-Israeli-American) Axis is (clearly) in decline. Let no one give us headaches with the daily lies of TV satellite channels from the Gulf. Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, until eventually people believe them. Such is the real regional situation. This Axis is declining.

The image of Saudi Arabia today in the Arab-Muslim world and elsewhere, for which it has spent billions of dollars, so that it is presented as the Kingdom of Good, today, in the consciousness of the world, what is it the Kingdom of? The Kingdom of those who sent these ISIS-crazies and takfiris, movements who destroyed the Arab and Muslim world, who perpetrated the most heinous crimes in the Arab and Muslim world and threaten the safety worldwide. What is their image with the war in Yemen? The siege, cholera, famine… And then they dare to say they provide (Yemen) with support on the issue of cholera, opening a corridor so that (the sick) can be treated. And up to their support for the Deal of the century, about which it is said that they would have backed off. Very good. Why are they backing off? Because they understood that (signing) this agreement would be a suicidal action.

Two more words about the regional situation. Israel and its internal crises: the corruption of the Prime Minister (Netanyahu), the disappearance of the historical leaders, persistent conflicts between parties, generalized anxiety, lack of confidence in the future. The atmosphere created by the media is only intended to reassure them and to keep them in the land they usurped. And also their Nation-State Law (institutionalizing the superiority of Jews). I do not have time to comment it in detail, but it will have a major impact on this entity.

In light of all these facts, we develop our position today. What happened in 2006 and what happened for 7 years aimed to allow the United States to seize this region, to root Israel permanently and to impose a resolution (of the Palestinian issue). Today, in 2018, I claim that this project has failed, or is about to fail definitively, with the Grace of God.

The Resistance Axis triumphs, US sanctions are an admission of impotence 

What is the lesson to draw from all that (I have just described)? Now I come to the conclusion. (The United States) have now only one way (to attack us). They know that wars lead to no result. Yesterday, His Eminence Imam (Khamenei), the Leader, may God preserve him, as he was speaking about the United States, said there would be no war. The US, Israel and this (Saudi) Axis know well that wars lead to no result, and they know that they will be defeated in any war they’d launch (against us), because they were defeated in the current wars and continue to be defeated.

The US-Saudi alliance, assisted by (Gulf and West) States, failed (miserably) in Yemen against the Yemeni people, who has modest resources, but great men and women. This alliance, which also failed in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and has succeeded nowhere, knows that (any war will be disastrous). One of the benefits of the current situation is that wars are (now) left aside. Let no one threaten us with war, or believe he can scare us by evoking the prospect of wars. Anyway, if someone wants to start a war, he is most welcome. He will be well received. We are not afraid of war, it does not worry us. We are ready and we shall come out victorious with the Grace of God. It’s a certainty. Therefore it seems that the idea of ​​resorting to war was discarded. What do they want to do instead? Two things, and the first leads to the second.

The first is sanctions. Within the Resistance Axis, Iran is today the main force. Iran stood alongside the Iraqi people against ISIS, and in Iraq, ISIS was a Saudi-American project. Iran stood by Syria against all the takfiri movements who fought as part of a US-Saudi project. Iran stood by Lebanon during the 2006 war, before 2006 and after 2006. And Iran has stood by Palestine and Gaza and continues to stand by their side. And the position of Iran with regard to what is happening in Yemen and in the region is clear. (The Saudi-Israeli-American axis) therefore wants to target Iran. It is not possible for them to launch a war against Iran, so they imposed sanctions on Iran, in the hope that the Iranians are affected, the currency collapses, the social and economic situation becomes difficult, that disturbances are fomented inside Iran and that the Iranian people be pushed to overthrow the regime, so that the US can present themselves as the saviors and redeemers. And they think that if they pressure Iran, the whole (Resistance) Axis will weaken, (all) those who rely on Iran, count on it and are supported by it. Iran will get isolated, Hezbollah will be subjected to sanctions, as well as Syrian and Iraqi officials, something they have already done, etc., in order to besiege them financially, economically, etc. And this is supposed to weaken them and force them to back off and renounce (the Resistance).

And the second thing is to push to internal unrest in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. In Lebanon, I say it between brackets, and I will return to it in a moment in my last section on the internal situation, you must know that everything that is written in social networks and in the media, all the requests addressed to Hezbollah (to act) in the sectors of economy, development, finances and services, those who make them do not all have good intentions. There are people who have different intentions. There are people who try to make us bear the responsibility for this situation of which we are not responsible, or if we are responsible of it, it is only to a certain extent, in order to stir up trouble in our popular base and in our society. Therefore, the last hope of Trump, Israel and all those who stand with them is sanctions.

And about sanctions, there is a great effort in the media, and the image (of the potential impact of sanctions) that is presented is not realistic. And on August 14, the day of commemoration of the victory, my duty is to clarify this point to you and to all who listen to me, wherever they are. This Iran to which Trump imposes economic sanctions, I say this on the basis of information and very precise data in my possession, I tell you that they build their dreams, their strategy and project on the fact that this will lead Iran to internal unrest and the overthrow of the regime. But these are illusions, chimeras that have no place in reality. I remind you that in 1979, when the Islamic Revolution led by Imam Khomeini, may God sanctify him, triumphed, the arrogant Western world said that the regime would collapse within 6 months, but it stood 6 months despite sanctions and the global blockade. Then they said it was going to collapse in a year, but it stood firm. Then they said two years, but it stood. Then they imposed the 8 years war (launched by Iraq). And the whole world was with Saddam Hussein, except Syria and a small number of countries. The whole world (was against Iran). Even those who are now our allies in Syria. Even the Soviet Union was with Saddam Hussein. Even China was with Saddam Hussein. The whole world was with Saddam Hussein. And Iran fought for 8 years, with its bare chest and its empty hands, but with faith and popular will. Iran is under sanctions since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. True, Trump strengthens the sanctions, but sanctions date from 1979. And Iran has remained, and will soon celebrate the 40th anniversary of the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, despite all the conspiracies of the world and the (hostile) neighborhood (Saudi Arabia, Gulf).

I say this (with certainty) o my brothers and sisters, o those who profess and believe in the posture of justice and truth of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the equations of the region, in the fate of the region and its future, the Islamic Republic of Iran in our region today is stronger than ever, and it is even the first power. And they can not reduce its power or presence or hurt it. The regime of Iran is powerful, strong, determined and rooted, and protected by its people. Those who nourish these hopes (to end the regime) are dreaming awake and do not know the Iranian people. They have failed to know this people for 40 years and will not succeed in 100 years. And they do not know His Eminence Imam (Khamenei), the Leader, and they do not know the officials of the Islamic Republic. They are still ignorant, foolish and stupid.

And all their past actions have not led to the weakening of Iran; on the contrary, Iran has continued to strengthen. All the stupid actions of the US administration and their instruments in the region against Iran or the region led Iran to become increasingly powerful both inside and in the region. To prove it in detail would be long, but the evidence is clear for all.

And also in our case, regarding all our (Resistance) Axis in the region, I do not claim that the sanctions have no impact, of course they have an impact, we should not deny it. But sanctions will have no impact on our determination, our will and steadfastness, nor diminish our strength. Impose all the sanctions you want. Today, we possess in terms of strength –and they begin to wonder what will be the effect of sanctions on the financial situation of Hezbollah–, we possess in terms of strength, infrastructure, cadres, men and capacity which will allow us to overcome these difficulties, with the Grace of God.

In light of all that I have just presented, I conclude before saying a few words about the internal situation in Lebanon, to draw the lesson from all this. The lesson of all this, all the past, present, and what is to come, I want to say on this August 14, 2018, 12 years after the 2006 war: O Lebanese, O honorable people, O the noblest people, most worthy and most glorious of peoples, O peoples and masses of the Resistance, we were (already) stronger (than our enemies) and we became (even) stronger. Let no one try to make us believe that we are weak. Let no one imagine that if a crisis happens, or if we have a problem here or there, and some nonsense and insults appear (in the media and social networks), it may alter our soul, our determination, our will and our strategy.

These United States, whose projects and actions turned out to be failure after failure, I say to you today, (you) are unable to launch wars like the ones they have launched in the past (Iraq, Afghanistan…). And this Israel is unable to launch wars like the ones he has launched in the past (Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Egypt…). And now, with our victory in Iraq, with our victory in Syria coming very soon, as the fighting will end in a few days, weeks or months (at most), with the heroic resistance of Yemen, with all the developments in our region, and with the leaders and people in Iran holding out, remaining firmly attached to their position, their foundations, their principles and their doctrine, we are now stronger than ever, and capable of shaping more victories and (positive) developments, with the help of God Almighty and the Exalted. […]

Full transcript (except for the last section about Lebanon’s internal affairs).

Translation: unz.com/sayedhasan

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September 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US-Pakistani Relations Head South: Pentagon Cancels Military Aid to Islamabad

By Arkady SAVITSKY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.09.2018

The US Defense Department has made a final decision to cancel $300 million (the Coalition Support Funds) in aid to Pakistan. The official reason is Islamabad’s failure to take decisive action against the militants who are waging war in Afghanistan: the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban. The move is subject to approval by Congress. It was announced mere days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit Pakistan to meet Imran Khan, the country’s new prime minister. It also took place right on the heels of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Pakistan, where the leadership expressed support for Iran and the nuclear deal the US abandoned. One is reminded of President Trump’s Aug. 7 tweet warning that “[a]nyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”

The announced decision is part of a broader suspension that was proclaimed at the beginning of the year. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit,” President Trump tweeted on January 1, 2018. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” The statement was followed by announcement that Secretary Jim Mattis was authorized to grant $300 million in CSF funds over the summer if he saw a change of attitude in Islamabad. He didn’t.

The US has started to suspend its training and educational programs for Pakistani officers. No funds have been provided for the coming academic year. US military institutions, including the National Defense University in Washington DC, the US Army’s War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the US Naval War College, the Naval Staff College, and other courses they offered, including cybersecurity studies, eliminated the 66 slots they had reserved for cadets from Pakistan. It’s rather symbolic that Moscow and Islamabad signed an agreement on August 7 to train Pakistani military personnel in Russia.

With that country’s foreign-exchange reserves plummeting, PM Imran Khan will have to decide whether his government will seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where the United States controls more votes than any other member. The alternative would be to turn to China, Russia, and other friendly nations. After the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the 2018 general elections, China agreed to grant a $2 billion loan to Islamabad. On July 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that any potential IMF bailout for Pakistan’s new government must not include funds to pay off the country’s Chinese lenders. Pakistan is pinning its hopes on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Russia and Pakistan marked the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations on May 1, 2018. That relationship has seen its ups and downs, but today it has risen to a new historic high.

Moscow and Islamabad see eye-to-eye on the prospects for ending the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has endorsed the Russian-brokered peace talks that exclude the United States but include the Taliban. Pakistan strongly supports Russia’s Syria policy. Islamabad’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opens up new prospects for cooperation. Russian President Vladimir Putin has put forward a proposal to create a more extensive Eurasian partnership based on the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which would involve China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and those from the Community of Independent States (CIS) that are willing to join. Islamabad is also interested in signing a free-trade agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Pakistan has shown its interest in buying military hardware from Russia, has participated in Russian war games, and has also attended Army exhibitions. In September 2016, Russia and Pakistan held their first-ever joint military exercise. It’s been held yearly ever since. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Javed Bajwa paid his first visit to Russia in April of this year. In late July, the two countries signed a naval cooperation agreement during the visit of Pakistan’s Vice Chief of the Naval Staff Vice Admiral Kaleem Shaukat to Russia. The Pakistani military plans to purchase Su-35 fighter jets and T-90 tanks from Russia.

Russia is involved in many economic projects, such as the Karachi Steel Mill and Gudhu Power Plants. In 2015, Russia and Pakistan signed a contract to build a 1,100-kilometer gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore (the North-South pipeline) with a capacity of 12.4 billion cubic meters per annum — the largest economic deal ($1.7 billion) between the two countries since the USSR built the Pakistan Steel Mills in the 1970s. Delayed several times because of tariff disputes, it will be set in motion this year by a Russian company called RT – Global Resource.

Pakistan has already invited the Russian Federation to join the $1.16 billion Central Asia-South Asia power project or CASA-1000, which will allow for the export of surplus hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2017, Pakistan’s government gave the go-ahead for the initiation of an agreement with Russia to construct a 600MW Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power plant in Jamshoro, Sindh.

US-Pakistani relations are evidently at a low ebb but every coin has two sides. This is prompting Islamabad to diversify its foreign relationships. There are other partners with a lot to offer that could make that country stronger and much less vulnerable to outside pressure.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Incorrect’ US account of Khan-Pompeo talks upsets Pakistan

Press TV – August 24, 2018

Pakistan has called on the US to immediately correct a newly released statement about a phone conversation between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

US State Department said in a statement on Thursday that Pompeo has called on Khan to take “decisive action” against “terrorists” during a phone call he made to wish him success after he was sworn into office.

Pompeo “raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office, however, rejected the statement, saying there was no such mention of “terrorists operating in Pakistan,” during the conversation.

“Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by US State Department on the phone call between Prime Minister Khan and Secretary Pompeo,” said foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal, calling on the states department to “immediately correct” the statement.

Nauert indicated there would be no correction in response to Pakistan’s complaint. “I can only say we stand by our readout,” Nauert told a news conference.

Washington has for years accused Islamabad of allowing militants and terrorist groups to operate relatively freely in Pakistan’s porous border regions to carry out operations in neighboring Afghanistan, an allegation Pakistan denies.

US President Donald Trump said in his first tweet of 2018 that Washington had “foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.” He threatened to cut off foreign aid to Pakistan, once again accusing Islamabad of harboring violent extremists.

Pakistani officials have frequently said the US government is making Pakistan a scapegoat to cover Washington’s failure in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since the United States and its allies invaded the country to topple Taliban as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror in 2001. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Saudis want Imran Khan to back ‘anti-terror alliance’

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid | Asia Times | August 24, 2018

Riyadh wants Imran Khan to openly support the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition, after formally taking over as Prime Minister of Pakistan last week. Well-placed diplomatic sources say the Saudi rulers conveyed their desire in recent communications with the new Pakistani leadership.

The latest among these came on Tuesday, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Mina. The Inter-Services Public Relations chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted that Crown Prince Salman helped General Bajwa to perform the Hajj ritual, and expressed support for the new government in Islamabad.

Senior military officials confirmed that Pakistan’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia on multiple fronts was discussed, including the security of the kingdom. Among these was the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), headed by former Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, as Riyadh would like the new Pakistani government to be more involved.

“The Saudi leadership wants Prime Minister Imran Khan to publicly back the coalition because they see the benefit of someone with his global reputation to provide more credence to the alliance, which has been accused of having a sectarian tinge,” a senior diplomat told Asia Times. “The Saudis want to maintain that the absence of Iran and Iraq from the Islamic military coalition is because of political differences rather than religious or ideological [factors], and they believe Pakistan’s vocal support would help in this regard, especially given recent diplomatic developments.”

Anti-terror alliance or anti-Iran?

Saudi Arabia announced the anti-terror alliance in December 2015, when it described the Islamic State as a disease tarnishing the Muslim faith. However, critics have said the alliance, which has about 40 members, appears to be aimed at Iran as much as terrorists.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador after the Government of Canada called for the release of human rights activists. That was followed by an immediate message of support by the government of Pakistan, which said it stood with Saudi Arabia over its row with Canada. The caretaker government issued that statement, but Riyadh is hoping for similar vocal support from the Imran Khan-led administration sworn in last week.

Prince Muhammad Bin Salman called Khan last week to congratulate him on winning the election, and invited him to Saudi Arabia, an offer which the Pakistani premier accepted. The trip is likely to take place early next month. Bilateral ties between Riyadh and Islamabad will be discussed in detail, along with Pakistan’s role in the IMCTC.

Khan has previously opposed Pakistan getting involved in the Saudi war on Yemen, which is aided by the kingdom’s ties with the Pakistani military.  “After the meeting in September [Khan] will say that Pakistan is very supportive of Saudi Arabia and is willing to do everything to safeguard the holy places from any attacks, which is usually interpreted as an intent of maintaining neutrality, but is accepted by the Saudis as Pakistan being willing to provide all kinds of military cooperation,” a retired military officer said to Asia Times. “However, it’s Pakistan’s support for the military coalition that will determine how many billion dollars the Saudis give us,” he said.

Pakistan is eying a $4-billion loan from the Saudi-backed Islamic Development Bank to address its balance of payments crisis. Riyadh could provide further economic favors as well, depending on how much Islamabad toes the Saudi line, as was the case for Khan’s predecessors.

Sharif prioritized ties with Saudi royals

Nawaz Sharif felt indebted to the Saudi leaders due to their support for the former premier in exile when he was ousted in a coup by former Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, and critics have long noted how Sharif prioritized Islamabad’s relations with Riyadh over others, which helped alienate Pakistan’s neighbors in Iran.

Sharif’s pro-Saudi stance and his party’s alliances with sectarian groups in Punjab meant that Khan’s PTI had wide backing from the country’s Shia population, which forms around a fifth of Pakistan’s Muslim population. “Unlike Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan is much better placed to balance relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has been a long-held – but perpetually unfulfilled – goal of Pakistani foreign policy,” says Shameem Akhtar, a veteran foreign policy analyst, columnist and former dean of International Relations at Karachi University.

“Imran Khan doesn’t feel personally obliged towards the Saudis, who have long bought Pakistan and considered it their satellite state. If there’s anything that could push his hand it’s the economic support provided by Riyadh, given Pakistan’s fiscal needs.”

The first indication of the new government’s position on the IMCTC will come if it provides a No Objection Certificate for General Raheel Sharif to continue to command the coalition, after the Supreme Court noted earlier this month that the previous federal cabinet had not done so.

In court proceedings, Defense Secretary Lieutenant General Zamirul Hassan (Retired) said the defense ministry had granted a No Objection notice to Gen Sharif, but the Chief Justice of Pakistan underscored that the law required approval from the cabinet.

Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a former secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense Production, said he expects a No Objection Certificate to be granted to Gen Sharif. He also confirmed that a lot of Pakistan’s current support to the IMCTC is tacit, but “getting vocal” would be problematic for the new PM.

“The Saudi demand for open backing of the Islamic military coalition puts Imran Khan in a difficult position. I don’t think he would like to openly back the coalition, even though we support it in many ways, but not quite as openly,” Masood told Asia Times.

However, the Lieutenant General maintained that Khan would not have much of a say in the matter given the military leadership’s control over foreign policy. “I don’t think there will be much difference between the policy that Nawaz Sharif was pursuing vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia to what Imran Khan will pursue. Because it all depends on what the military feels and the policy that it decides,” he said.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Hopes and forebodings in India over the rise of Imran Khan

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 29, 2018

Circumstantial evidence can be marshaled to establish that a level playing field was not available to Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties – the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party – in the parliamentary poll on July 25.

But that alone cannot delegitimize the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Imran Khan.

Khan likely benefited from the denial of a level playing field to Nawaz Sharif. But that is not the whole story. His mandate is authentic and he is no one’s creation. Khan astutely presented himself as the symbol of ‘change’ and his mandate reflects the Pakistani people’s craving for change.

In fact, the expectations of the people are high and Khan will be hard-pressed to fulfill them. The national program he outlined in his victory speech challenges entrenched interest groups, who will no doubt resist. Compromises may become necessary, even inevitable. If not, confrontation may ensue. The robust opposition will make the going very tough for Khan at every stage.

Three things must be said here. First, the rout of the ‘religious parties’ has been absolute. The astonishing part is that Pakistani voters displayed impeccable secular temper to reject any politician who sought to exploit religious sentiment.

Second, India did not figure as a topic during the election campaign. The focus was almost entirely on Pakistan’s political economy. Third, and most importantly, Khan managed to secure a fairly broad-based mandate, although Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains his citadel.

Role models

The good part is that Khan has a track record of some two decades in politics. Which is saying a lot because politics in Pakistan is not for the faint-hearted. Interestingly, Khan once mentioned as his four role models Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Singapore’s late mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula.

Doesn’t that say something about Khan? He would like to be seen as a forceful and decisive prime minister who is result-oriented – and, while being “populist,” a nation-builder and nationalist, too.

In the foreign policy arena, Khan appears to be more of an ‘Eurasianist’ rather than a ‘Westernist.’ Both China and Russia have shown high regard for him – probably anticipating a regional realignment under his leadership that is conducive to multi-polarity in regional and world politics. Considering that Pakistan is a major Muslim country, its strategic autonomy is of keen interest to China and Russia.

Khan’s ascendance may prove to be hugely consequential for regional security and stability. He has severely questioned the raison d’etre of the Afghan war and has called for an end to the Western military presence in the region. The US State Department statement on the Pakistan election has been noticeably critical, albeit sidestepping Khan himself.

Khan’s rise is a fortuitous happening for Tehran insofar as with Erdogan’s Turkey and Khan’s Pakistan, it gains strategic depth to counter the US’s containment strategy. Again, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be put on fast track. On the whole, the prospects appear good for accelerating Pakistan’s Eurasian integration.

A sense of déjà vu

The big question is about Pakistan’s relations with India. Alas, Indian analysts see Khan’s rise with a sense of déjà vu. Of course, the reality on the ground is that the Pakistani army leadership will remain in the driving seat, and this is worrisome thought for Delhi. However, the flip side is that the army leadership and Khan are on the same page and Delhi at least knows who to dial if the need arises.

Delhi’s initial reaction altogether ignored Khan’s rise. Instead, the foreign ministry spokesman praised the Pakistani people’s “faith” in the democratic process. A sense of unease is palpable. But then, if Khan earned the nickname ‘Taliban Khan,’ it is for good reason. He also has a history of making inflammatory statements about Kashmir.

Khan’s ascendance comes at a time when the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir remains critical. The probability is high that Khan will not let India off the hook. Pakistan has consistently argued that an enduring settlement in Afghanistan will not be realistic so long as the Kashmir issue remains unresolved.

Fundamentally, the Indian dilemma is that it has nothing to discuss with Pakistan about Kashmir. The Modi government vows to retake the territory under Pakistan’s control. On the other hand, as long as the people’s alienation in Jammu and Kashmir remains so widespread, Pakistan will take advantage of the situation to force India to come to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, India is also heading for a crucial parliamentary poll early next year. In the backdrop of the Modi government’s waning popularity, the ruling BJP has pinned its hopes on polarizing Hindu votes. So keeping tensions with Pakistan in a state of animated suspension became the default position for the BJP.

How far Khan will acquiesce with this paradigm remains to be seen. The chances are he won’t. A troubled period lies ahead.

The Indian narrative so far has been that the late Benzair Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s two charismatic past prime ministers, could not really do much to improve relations with India due to the army’s corporate interest in perpetuating tensions with India.

However, a new predicament now arises for Delhi when the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan get along well – having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

July 30, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Regional states muscle in to seek a bigger ‘say’ in Afghan conflict

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 19, 2018

A new strategic fault line appeared in the Afghan conflict last week when Islamabad hosted an unusual meeting of the heads of the intelligence agencies of Russia, China and Iran on July 11.

Moscow thoughtfully publicized the event both for its optics as well as to pre-empt misperceptions that some sort of zero-sum game might be afoot.

The focus was on joint measures to stop the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) from threatening the territorial boundaries of the four regional states. In the Russian estimation, there could be up to 10,000 fighters in IS-K’s ranks already and the group is already active in nine of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

The four participating countries “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries.” But they also “stressed the need for a more active inclusion of regional powers in the efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the leitmotif is in the latter claim by the regional states seeking a greater say in Afghan peace-making. Three related developments over the weekend also signal the new churning. One, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Mohammad Baqeri, started a three-day visit to Islamabad on July 15 at the invitation of Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa.

This is the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that a chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces visited Pakistan. No doubt, the visit signals Tehran’s appreciation that Pakistan is no longer in the US orbit. General Bajwa visited Tehran in November.

According to the Pakistani readout, General Bajwa noted that Pakistan’s military cooperation with Iran would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region.” Later, General Baqeri told the Iranian media that the US and its allies seek to weaken security in the region and Iran and Pakistan are “duty-bound to take actions” to safeguard regional peace and security.

There is a history of cross-border terrorism from across the porous Pakistani border in which Tehran suspected the hidden hand of hostile powers. Therefore, today, the Iranian calculus prioritizes the “return” of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the Afghan chessboard recently, after a prolonged absence, given the geopolitical rivalries playing out in a diverse theatre across the Greater Middle East.

Curiously, although the newfound Saudi-Emirati pro-activism in Afghanistan is coinciding with the steady expansion of IS-K, the two Gulf states today are preoccupied with weakening the Taliban, whom they had mentored in an earlier era in the 1990s. The Kabul government approved on June 6 the deployment of UAE Special Forces to Afghanistan.

On July 11-12, Saudi Arabia hosted an Ulema conference in Jeddah and Mecca, which issued a ‘fatwa’ against the ‘jihad’ waged by the Afghan Taliban. Washington encouraged these parallel Saudi-Emirati moves, which implies a concerted attempt to weaken the Taliban whom the US military failed to defeat, with a view to force it to compromise.

However, on the contrary, a paradigm shift is under way in the regional perceptions regarding the Taliban. The special envoy of the Russian president on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, disclosed on the weekend that Moscow proposes to invite the Taliban to the second round of the Russian regional initiative on Afghanistan, which is expected to be held sometime late in the summer.

Kabulov characterized the Taliban as a force that has “integrated” with the Afghan nation, and therefore, having a legitimacy, which in some respects even exceeds the Kabul government’s, and controlling more than half the territory of Afghanistan. Kabulov implicitly doubted the representative character of the present Afghan government.

Suffice to say that the Russian policy is incrementally redefining the battle lines in Afghanistan from ‘Taliban versus the Rest’ to ‘Afghanistan versus the IS-K.’ Conceivably, Iran, China and Pakistan are in harmony with the Russian thinking.

The heart of the matter is that while these regional states regard the Taliban as an Afghan movement indigenously rooted in traditional Islam and with a political agenda confined to their homeland, they abhor the IS-K as a brutal terrorist group weaned on Salafi-Wahhabist teaching which casts a seductive appeal to misguided Muslim youth worldwide.

However, in the final analysis, the above interplay needs to be juxtaposed with recent reports that President Trump may order a policy review of his one-year old Afghan strategy. In fact, the sudden visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul on July 9 only reinforced that impression in the region. Unsurprisingly, Pompeo maintained while in Kabul that the Trump administration’s “strategy is working.”

But then, instead of heaping praise on the US military, he instead stressed the urgency of a peace process with the Taliban. Pompeo offered that the US will “support, facilitate and participate in these peace discussions.” He then added meaningfully: “We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.”

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Iran Signs Free Trade Agreement With Eurasian Economic Union

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | May 17, 2018

Iran has just signed an agreement to enter a three year provisional free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). According to EAEU official Tigran Sargsyan,

“The temporary agreement stipulates an effective dispute settlement mechanism, including arbitration… It also creates a joint committee of high-ranking officials and establishes a business dialogue”.

The EAEU’s current members are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while the bloc has existing free trade agreements with Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Moldova. Aside from Vietnam other ASEAN states including Indonesia and Thailand have been in early level discussions about the possibility of a free trade arrangement with the EAEU, while Serbia and Turkey have also considered joining.  Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said that Iran could become the sixth full member in the future. Today’s Iran-EAEU free trade agreement will function as a test to determine the viability of long term Iranian membership of the trading bloc. Novak stated,

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation”.

While many will see EAEU membership as a further means for Iran to create new economic partnerships away from regions whose financial and commercial structures are subservient to a hostile United States, in the long term, it means far more to Iran than a means of skirting increasingly ridiculous sanctions from Washington in the light of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.

For Iran, EAEU membership represents a new opportunity to expand its economic horizons beyond its current Middle Eastern partners. In this sense, just as Iran has a long history of ‘thinking east’ in terms of economic connectivity and cultural exchange, today’s EAEU presents Tehran with a modern cooperative model to expand its peaceful economic interactions to greater Eurasia. Beyond this, with proposals to integrate Pakistan into the North-South Economic Corridor, Pakistan and Iran could cooperate in order to form two unique and mutually complimentary road corridors.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a joint initiative of nations who have built and continue to expand shipping and road links between South Asia, Northern Eurasia and Europe. The map below shows the basic route which begins with a shipping lane between India and Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman, before travelling north through Iran to the Caucasus and into Russia, while also linking up with existing rail routes from Iran into Central Asia and west into Europe via Turkey.

While countries as diverse as Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan have embraced the North-South Corridor as a means of creating greater opportunities for economic enrichment through joint cooperative efforts, in India, the project has been sold as a rival to China’a One Belt–One Road. This has been the case even though the North-South Corridor is vastly more limited in its geographical expanse vis-a-vis the global Chinese project and perhaps even more crucially, the other partners in the North-South Transport Corridor do not share India’s zero-sum vision of the project.

In particular, India is keen to present the North-South Transport Corridor as a rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking China to the Indian ocean via a large road and rail network whose western terminus is Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan recently announced that his country is interested in linking up with existing routes along the North-South Transport Corridor. This gives Pakistan the opportunity to link the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the North-South Transport Corridor, which would serve the long term strategic interests of the wider region, in terms of linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

Under such a scenario, goods from China would enter Pakistan via newly built road and rail routes and could then travel in one of two directions. First of all, goods could travel south through Pakistan to Gwadar where from there they could go in multiple directions including into Africa, Europe via the Suez Canal, or the wider Middle East via the Gulf of Oman/Chabahar and the Persian Gulf. Alternatively, goods could travel north into Central Asia and ultimately into Russia via Pakistan. This second option was proposed by geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko in early 2017 when he wrote,

“The enhanced trade relations that were mentioned above [see full piece] can only occur if Russia and Pakistan are connected to one another through CPEC, no matter how indirectly due to the geographic distance between them and Moscow’s reluctance to officially endorse this trade route in order to preserve its strategic “balancing act” with India. The second part of this conditional implies that the private sector needs to drive these two countries’ CPEC connectivity since the Russian state isn’t going to do so because of delicate political reasons, which thus allows one to envision three possible solutions, all of which are inclusive of one another and could in theory exist concurrently.

The most probable of the three is that Russia could connect to CPEC via the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan, which is already a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and through which a lot of bilateral trade already traverses. Furthermore, the Eurasian Land Bridge between East Asia and Western Europe is expected to pass through this international corridor as well, so it’ll probably be easiest for Russia and Pakistan to trade across this route by linking up at CPEC’s Urumqi hub in China’s Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.

Considering that Xinjiang’s capital city is located closer to Russia’s southern Siberian border than to CPEC’s terminal Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, there’s also the chance that a more direct north-south trade route could be established between Russia and Pakistan via this avenue. After all, Russia’s “Pivot to Asia” (which is officially referred to as “rebalancing” in Moscow’s political parlance) isn’t just international but also internal, and it aspires to develop resource-rich Siberia just as much as it aims to chart new international partnerships. With this in mind, there’s no reason why southern Siberia couldn’t one day be connected to CPEC via the nearby Urumqi juncture.

Lastly, Russia’s already building a North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) through Azerbaijan and Iran in order to facilitate trade with India, so the opportunity exists for it to simply use this route’s overland transport infrastructure to reach Pakistan in the event that the Iranian terminal port of Chabahar is ultimately linked with nearby Gwadar. Even if that doesn’t happen, then there’s still nothing preventing private Russian businessman from using Chabahar or even the more developed port of Bandar Abbas as their base of operations for conducting maritime trade with Gwadar or Karachi. This would in effect make India’s “brainchild” the ironic basis for Russian-Pakistani economic relations”.

Both Pakistan’s willingness to embrace the North-South Corridor, thereby integrating it into CPEC which itself forms a crucial artery of One Belt–One Road and Iran’s eagerness to become a member of the EAEU, could help to speed up the process of wider inter-connectivity between China’s Pacific Coast, the Middle East and Russia’s wider economic sphere in northern Eurasia.

If all of these existing links became inter-connected, one would see Gwadar taking on the adding function of becoming Central Asia and Russia’s gateway to the wider shipping routes of the Indian Ocean, while Chabahar would act as a parallel route for goods from both CPEC and the wider Indian Ocean, into the Caucasus, Russia or the Middle East.

Iran’s membership in the EAEU would help to expedite this process as the routes from Iran into Armenia and finally, into Russia would all constitute a single market. Were Turkey to join the EAEU, this would make transcaucasian trade into Turkey and the wider Mediterranean region all the more simple, as it would also allow Iran to act as a conduit between the Caucasus and Turkey, thus avoiding the politically prickly issue of direct trade from Armenia into Turkey. Turkey and Armenia’s mutually healthy relations with Iran, means that Tehran could be a physical arbiter of trade between two nations with historically (and currently) poor relations.

Over all, a strong and southward looking EAEU will help to strengthen both Iran-Pakistan relations through enhanced South Asian-Northern Eurasian trading networks, while also helping to facilitate the smooth transport of goods along One Belt–One Road from the Pacific into the Middle East, western Eurasia and further south into Africa along Indian Ocean maritime belts.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suffering in Silence

Warning: This video contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing.

Suffering in Silence Films | March 16, 2015

This investigative documentary is about war on terror in Pakistan. It is a journey through silent sufferings of victims of war on terror, innocents killed in US drone strikes as collateral damage, the terrorised community living under war, the civilian victims of war on terror and internally displaced people (IDP) due to war. The documentary focuses on most important aspect of the war within Pakistan, which is “chemistry between war on terror and terrorism itself”.

This documentary analysed psychological impact of war on the community in North West Pakistan, specially focusing on the intensified feelings of revenge in youngsters and its after effect in the form of suicide bombings as well as dangerously spread terrorism and involvement of “third hand” in the current situation. It also talks about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children witnessing war and terrorism.

Zooming in the community suffering in silence, the documentary tells the untold stories of civilian victims of drone attacks, journalists witnessing the unsaid truth, psychiatrist trying to heal injured souls, displaced people living miserably in harsh conditions of temporary camps, politicians running anti-war campaign and volunteers trying to comfort people in the war torn society.

Documentary asks that if the right to life is absolute for innocent civilians without any discrimination of race, how can Pakistan allow killing of thousands of innocent civilians as collateral damage?

Talking about how war on terror has facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups and motivated further violent attacks, it gives detailed psychoanalysis of tribal culture & the community prone to be recruited by the terrorist groups operating in Pakistan.

Challenging US claims of “surgically precise” (1) drone attacks on terrorist networks in Pakistan, the documentary “Suffering in Silence” unveils the contrary situation on the ground. Following two years of intensive research, exclusive interviews with victims and witnesses of war on terror including drone strikes and army operations, experts on Geo-political situation, psychiatrists and review of several media reports—this documentary highlights extremely detrimental and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policy as well as highly damaging and terrorism provoking war policy of Pakistan.

Documentary advocates that:

Intensity of agony doesn’t alter with geography. There has to be an end to hypocrisy. Right to life and a peaceful life should be equal for all. Life of an innocent child living in FATA should be considered as precious as of an innocent child living in New York. Pain means same for all. The pain of losing a loved one, the pain of witnessing transition of your child from being healthy to disable for life is same for all. The pain for searching your loved ones under the rubble of a school or home is as intense as it would be anywhere else in the world. For us watching news on our TV screens, the “militants” killed in drone strikes or killing of 50,000 people in suicide bomb blasts can be just a news. But for those who lost their loved ones, it’s not just news, it’s their torturous biography.

The least rest of the selfish world can do, is it to realise Pakistan’s sacrifices in an attempt to make this world a safer place.

Music

“Night Song” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

May 6, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi prince’s Narasimha Rao moment

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 8, 2018

Ten days have passed since the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman in a sensational interview with Time magazine recognized Israel’s right to exist and talked up future ties between the two countries. MBS hinted at the possibility of cooperation with Israel, adding the caveat that “we have to have a peace agreement (between Israel and the Palestinians) to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

Ten days are enough to shake the world – Bolshevik Revolution in Russia took only that long. By now MBS’s statement should have set the Muslim Middle East on fire, since after all, he is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and is destined to be the future Custodian of the Holy Places. On the contrary, there has been no violent reaction in the Islamic world to MBS’ extraordinary remarks.

Could this be his “Narasimha-Rao moment”? In India too, there was some agonizing when Prime Minister Rao took the decision in 1992 to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The conventional wisdom was that there might be a political backlash from the Indian Muslim community. But nothing of the sort happened. And over the years the Indian political elite not only got adapted to the Israel ties but took to it with gusto once it became apparent that the Palestine issue was passé in the Indian public opinion.

Clearly, Rao made a shrewd assessment of the gains and losses. MBS too must have done that since the Saudis and Israelis have been having sub-soil contacts for a while already. There is every reason to anticipate that the Saudi-Israeli political ties are transforming. The big question is, if Saudi Arabia takes the lead, how long can the rest of the Muslim Middle East hold back?

The other Persian Gulf oligarchies will take the cue from MBS. The UAE, in particular, is already trudging the same path – if anything, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, also called MBZ, is somewhat ahead of MBS (whom he reportedly mentors.) Egypt already has diplomatic ties with Israel and Jordan always kept communication lines open to Israel. Qatar too has had dealings with Israel. The so-called “Shi’ite Crescent” (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) may be an exception, while Turkey is regarded as an “outsider” by the Arab countries.

What about Pakistan? There has always been an opinion among the Pakistani elite that Islamabad should pragmatically deal with Israel. The former dictator Pervez Musharraf has brazenly spoken about the desirability of Pakistan having dealings with Israel in mutual interest. Interestingly, in August 2016, Pakistani and Israeli air force jets (plus the UAE air force) took part in the annual “Red Flag” war simulation exercise hosted by the US at the Nellis Air Force base in Nevada as part of advanced combat training exercise.

The Red Flag is regarded as the biggest and best simulation of war in the world. Interestingly, in 2015, the air forces of the United States, Israel, Singapore and Jordan had participated in the Red Flag and it was reported at that time that Israeli planes had even refueled the Jordanian fighter jets in the air, on the way to the US.

Some degree of proximity between Pakistan and Israel can be expected to develop in the downstream of the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement, especially if it blossoms as a quasi-alliance (which seems highly likely in a near-term scenario). To be sure, it will not escape Israel’s notice that the Islamic Military Alliance created by the Saudis has the former Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif as its commander-in-chief. Significantly, during his interview with Indian media while visiting Delhi recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to be drawn into public discussions regarding the Modi government’s “surgical strikes” against Pakistan, hinting evasively that Israel and Pakistan kept rules of mutual conduct.

Netting the big fish in the Islamic ocean has always been a foreign-policy priority for Israel. (We tend to overlook that Judaism and Islam are Abrahamic religions.) And as the biggest Islamic power, Pakistan is a pristine whale shark, 40′ long and weighing 20 tons. The marine biologists say that though carnivorous, the whale shark is unlikely to take a nibble out of an unwary surfer, and is in fact, so friendly that people often swim with it.

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Political party asks Pakistan to cut ties with the US

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid | Asia Times | April 5, 2018

A political party with close links to a man designated a global terrorist and connected to a number of other groups in Pakistan classified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States, has urged the government of Pakistan to sever ties with the US.

The Milli Muslim League (MML), a political party affiliated with terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, a globally designated terrorist, made the plea to sever ties with Washington after the US moved to increase pressure on radical groups in Pakistan early this week.

The US designated two groups – the MML and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) – as Foreign Terrorist Organizations on Monday, claiming they were fronts for the LeT, which is banned in Pakistan.

The US move deals a blow to the political ambitions of Saeed, who launched a campaign earlier this year to contest the general elections in a bid to become prime minister.

“The US is clearly interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters and should stay away from local politics,” MML spokesman Tabish Qayyum told Asia Times. “This is a breach of our fundamental rights as citizens of Pakistan, where no proof exists against us or our leadership pertaining to their alleged involvement in terrorism.”

In the build-up to February’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris, Islamabad designated Saeed and his groups terrorists as part of the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2018. It amended the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, to include all United Nations-sanctioned terror groups, including those in Pakistan.

This meant that along with Saeed and his LeT, affiliated groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation were also designated terror groups in Pakistan. However the MML, which was founded in August last year and has sworn allegiance to Saeed as its “spiritual guide,” wasn’t named in the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance, or on the US list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”

The US State Department’s announcement on Monday night was the first instance of the MML being named as an international terror group.

“We are a separate entity from LeT and JuD, you can’t just lump us all together,”MML spokesman Qayyum told Asia Times. “This is clearly a case of Islamabad taking orders from Washington and curtailing the rights of its own citizens. We urge Pakistan to reconsider its ties with the US.”

Registering to run in election

Echoing Qayyum, MML’s Finance Secretary Ehsan Ullah told Asia Times that the US announcement was a setback for the party as it had been finalizing plans to legally register with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“With the FATF announcement, and the government of Pakistan’s declaration against Hafiz Saeed, we had figured a legal way out to help us get registered with the ECP, complying with the financial scrutiny underlined by the FATF and also the legal requirements of the country,” he said.

“The US move is designed to damage our political growth, because we are a political threat for our rivals. If Pakistan had any self-respect it would sever ties with the US,” he added.

While the ECP registration remains pending because the Interior Ministry has underlined the MML’s links with LeT and Saeed, the JuD is confident the judiciary will help Saeed’s groups.

“The government is an American and Indian puppet, but the judiciary knows who is truly patriotic and who truly works for the interests of Pakistan,” JuD spokesman Nadeem Awan told Asia Times.

Last month the Lahore High Court extended its stay order against Saeed’s arrest as the government sought time to file replies and evidence. JuD insiders say the government cannot provide any evidence in court, which won’t stop questions being asked about the complicity of state institutions with Saeed and his groups.   

“Let’s not forget that we are only asking for Hafiz Saeed’s support just like the Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz (PML-N) has done in the past,” said Qayyum. “So it’s stark hypocrisy that the PML-N is asking for a ban on us, while they have used the same names to become the ruling party,” he said.

JuD spokesman Awam, meanwhile, says none of Saeed’s groups are involved in any suspicious activities.

“All state institutions know about our activities. We have never conducted any act that could be described as terrorism as per Pakistani laws and policies,” he said, adding that Saeed was the “voice of Pakistanis” and a “freedom fighter for Kashmir.”

“Now look at the bloodshed in Kashmir – do you think this government, that is an Indian stooge, can do anything about innocent Kashmiris dying under Indian occupation?” he asked. “Kashmir was declared as Pakistan’s jugular vein, and when it bleeds, the body can’t survive.”

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Leave a comment

US expects India to engage Pakistan in Kashmir talks

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 4, 2018

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the US State Department Alice Wells is visiting India on April 3-6. This is strictly not a ‘bilateral event’, but Ambassador Wells’ discussions with senior Indian government officials are expected to cover “regional and global issues”, according to the US state department announcement. Presumably, Afghanistan will be on top of the agenda of discussion.

Ambassador Wells has emerged as the Trump administration’s key interlocutor on the Afghan problem. A career diplomat, low-key but very effective in the absence of turf rivalries, she is able to galvanize the search for a political process in Afghanistan in such a short period of time. Ambassador Wells has succeeded in building up a good rapport with the Pakistani officials who are in a position to make or mar her project. During her extraordinarily open-ended visit (for “several days”) to Pakistan last week, Ambassador Wells was received by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Ambassador Wells’ consultations in Delhi come at a sensitive juncture. For, no matter what the Pentagon commanders might like, President Donald Trump wants the war to end before his campaign for a second term begins and Ambassador Wells’ task is cut out for her. Delhi must understand that this is not a routine visit she is undertaking for an exchange of views with think-tankers and officials on the sidelines of the US-India-Japan trilateral taking place today. In fact, the trilateral is the sideshow.

The Taliban is tiptoeing toward the negotiating table and Ambassador Wells’ persuasiveness and diplomatic skill has made all the difference. (For the uninitiated, let me introduce to them her masterly briefing on March 9 at the US Institute of Peace in Washington – Signs of Hope for Afghan Peace Talks.)

The traffic on the diplomatic track has become dense lately since the meeting in the White House in Washington between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the US Vice-President Mike Pence on March 17. The international conference in Tashkent on March 26-27 has served the purpose of generating a modicum of regional consensus. The Russian daily Kommersant reported quoting “sources” that although no formal invitation was extended to the Taliban to participate in the conference, “at the last minute, they expressed a desire to come to Tashkent.”

Be that as it may, Taliban was surely eavesdropping outside the conference hall and would have noticed from the Tashkent Declaration that there is not a single voice in the international community that disapproves of the Afghan government’s unconditional offer of peace talks. Ambassador Wells proceeded to Kabul after the Tashkent conference and then moved on to Islamabad last Thursday.

Interestingly, Pakistan handed over a “terror dossier” to Kabul last Thursday containing evidence of terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan soil. It is a veritable action plan for the Afghan side and their American mentors as to what Pakistan expected them to do by curbing the terrorist activities from bases within Afghanistan. And, four days later, The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Janjua, accompanied by the Director General Military Operations Maj Gen Shamshad Mirza and other senior officials travelled to Kabul for downstream talks. These talks are expected to prepare the ground for the visit by Prime Minister Abbasi’s visit to the Afghan capital on April 6. (Abbasi is proceeding from Kabul to China on a 3-day visit.)

We may expect Abbasi’s visit to Kabul on Friday to be a watershed event. It is entirely conceivable that in a not-too-distant future the Taliban may announce its formal response to the Afghan government offer for peace talks. The coming days and weeks, therefore, are of critical interest.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government announced on Sunday the dates for the long-delayed parliamentary elections and the first-ever local council elections – October 20. Of course, there is a big question mark about the feasibility of holding elections in Afghanistan in the prevailing circumstances with roughly half the country contested by insurgents.

On the other hand, it is the Taliban’s participation in these elections that can make a world of difference, giving them the legitimacy they badly need and providing the country’s democratic process the traction that it never could really acquire in the past decade or more. The US’ allies are extremely keen that the political legitimacy of the Afghan political system is enhanced. The speech made by the European Union foreign and security policy chief Federica Mogherini at the Tashkent conference was particularly notable for being a stirring call to the Taliban to rise to the momentous occasion in their country’s history.

Suffice to say, any Pakistani-Afghan consensus to put a moratorium on cross-border terrorism will be a major development. The US is actively promoting it. So is China. Pakistan can be expected to reciprocate. But we aren’t quite there, yet.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the US government-funded media organ, that Islamabad and Washington are yet to find “common ground” on a range of issues. Faisal didn’t specify the problem areas, but it stands to reason that a principal one will be Pakistan’s tense relations with India.

Quite obviously, we should anticipate that the Trump administration hopes to bring India on board. Put differently, the Trump administration’s “regional approach” for Afghanistan demands that India-Pakistan tensions do not complicate the path of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Wells is likely to meet with the Foreign Secretary and NSA Ajit Doval while in Delhi. Significantly, on the eve of Ambassador Wells’ departure for India on Monday, the US state department amended its designation of Lashkar-e-Taiba, identifying Milli Muslim League and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir as LeT affiliates, making it impossible for them to register as political parties in Pakistan.

Clearly, the Trump administration hopes that Delhi will appreciate this as friendly gesture, underscoring that Washington is receptive towards India’s genuine concerns in regional security. It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that Ambassador Wells would also have taken Pakistani officials into confidence that capping the political ambitions of Hafeez Saeed can be an important confidence-building measure at this point.

Now comes the big question: How does India respond to the totality of the emergent situation surrounding Afghanistan? Sadly, the explosive violence in Jammu & Kashmir just at this juncture will make things very difficult for Delhi to rise to the occasion and optimally align the Indian foreign policies with the broader trends leading toward peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the bottom line is that India is a stakeholder. Clearly, a leap of faith is needed. The Modi government would chaff at the very idea of holding talks with Pakistan, facilitated by Washington and under close US monitoring, when the 2019 poll is sailing into view.

But in politics and diplomacy, there may be moments when drinking from the chalice of poison is necessary – to borrow the memorable words of Iran’s Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in an analogous situation in his country’s contemporary history when he allowed himself to be persuaded to agree to a ceasefire against the Iraqi aggressor who had bled his country white in the 8-year war (1980-1988.)

Given the complete policy breakdown in Jammu & Kashmir, what is the alternative? And, the crisis in J&K is only deepening; the wounds are threatening to turn gangrene.

April 4, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 3 Comments