Sunday, 28 February 2010

middle east: us is following a new colonial agenda

Syria and Iran affirm ties, rebuff Washington

Phil Sands, Foreign Correspondent

February 26. 2010 6:56AM GMT


Syria and Iran reaffirmed their close alliance yesterday, publicly rebuffing recent attempts by the United States to drive a wedge between them. The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al Assad, promised increased co-operation in the face of US pressure on Tehran and a new American diplomatic offensive aimed at Damascus. Mr al Assad pointedly rejected Washington’s goal of weakening the Syrian-Iranian alliance, and accused the US of following a new colonial agenda in the Middle East. “We hope that others don’t give us lessons about our region and our history,” he said after meeting with Mr Ahmadinejad in the Syrian capital. “We are the ones who decide how matters will go and we know our interests. We thank them for their advice.”

His remarks were a direct response to comments made the previous day by the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who said the Americans were asking Syria to “generally move away from the relationship with Iran”. Mrs Clinton told the US Senate Wednesday she had also “laid out for the Syrians the need for greater co-operation” with American interests on Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. Senior US officials were in Damascus last week for talks on intelligence matters, part of a renewed programme of dialogue after years of frozen US-Syrian relations.

Iran has come under intense and growing pressure from the international community over a controversial nuclear project that it insists is civilian, not military. That claim has not convinced the United Nations which has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran, with a fourth currently under consideration. Mr al Assad, however, said Syria supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium, apparently dashing European hopes Damascus would play a mediating role on the issue. Israel has warned it will consider military strikes against Tehran unless the project is halted before Iran develops nuclear weapons.

Syria and Israel, which remain at war over the occupied Golan Heights, have recently traded a string of threats, raising the spectre of another outbreak of hostilities in the region. Mr Ahmadinejad yesterday weighed in on the subject, saying Iran, Syria and Lebanon would be unified against any Israeli attack and that the time was coming when the Middle East would no longer have “Zionists and colonialists”.“If the Zionist entity wants to repeat its past errors, its death will be inevitable,” he said.
As well as being long-time allies, Syria and Iran are key supporters of Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, both of which have powerful military wings.

Washington and Tel Aviv consider Hamas and Hizbollah terrorist organisations, despite their widespread grassroots support in the region and mainstream political activity.After meeting with the Syrian president yesterday, Mr Ahmadinejad was due to hold discussions with Hizbollah and Hamas officials, including Khalid Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas who is based in Damascus.
According to a number of Syrian political analysts, underpinning yesterday’s public display of unity is Syria’s belief that, regardless of slowly improving relations with the US, Iran remains central to its interests. “Syria is not a natural ally to Iran but is not going to walk away from that relationship just because the Americans want it to,” said one analyst, on condition of anonymity. “There is a deal to be done between Syria and America but it would need firm, concrete steps towards reining in Israel. Until that happens, and we see no sign it is coming anytime soon, Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas are vital parts of Syrian policy.”Washington accuses Syria and Iran of providing weapons to Palestinian and Lebanese militants, allegations Damascus and Tehran deny.
“All countries are pragmatic in their foreign policy and Syria is no different,” said another analyst in Damascus, also on condition of anonymity.

“The alliance between Syria and Iran is not automatic or eternal but the Americans have certainly done nothing yet to make Syria reassess its position.” The US announced the return of an ambassador to Damascus this year, after five years in which the post was left empty. The former US president, George W Bush, recalled the previous ambassador after the assassination of the Lebanese billionaire Rafik Hariri.

That murder ushered in years of estrangement between Syria and the West, a period that only cemented ties between Damascus and Tehran. Syria’s diplomatic isolation has largely ended in the past year, prompting hopes of a renewed drive for peace in the Middle East. Such hopes remain unrealised however, with the Palestinians divided and under an ongoing Israeli siege and with a hardline government in Tel Aviv insisting that the occupied Golan, seized from Syria in 1967, will always remain part of Israel.

US attempts to foster an improved climate for peace talks have so far failed to yield anything like a breakthrough, with critics saying Barack Obama, the US president, failed a major test when he backed down in a confrontation with Israel over the issue of illegal settlement construction.

Friday, 26 February 2010

baluchistan: nato strategy exposed

related maps:

The Battle for Baluchistan: Iran Nabs Top NATO Terrorist with Help from Pakistan

Webster G. Tarpley

February 25, 2010

On Tuesday Feb. 23, Iran announced the capture of Abdulmalek Rigi, the boss of the terror organization Jundullah, which works for NATO. The capture of Rigi represents a serious setback for the US-UK strategy of using false flag state-sponsored terrorism against Iran and Pakistan, and ultimately to sabotage China’s geopolitics of oil. The Iranians claim to have captured Rigi all by themselves, but the Pakistani ambassador to Teheran is quoted in The Dawn as claiming an important role for Pakistan. The Iranians say that Rigi was attempting to fly from Dubai to Kyrgystan, and that his plane was forced to land in Iran by Iranian interceptors. This exploit recalls Oliver North’s 1985 intercept of the accused Achille Lauro perpetrators, including Abu Abbas, forcing their Egyptian plane to land at Sigonella, Sicily. But other and perhaps more realistic versions suggest that Iran was tipped off by the Pakistanis, or even that Rigi was captured by Pakistan and delivered to the Iranians.

Jundullah, otherwise known as the Rigi organization, is a clan-based Mafia organization that has long infested the Iran-Pakistan border. The Rigis are traditionally smugglers and drug pushers of royalist persuasion, and now they have branched out into terrorism. Jundullah is mounting a Sunni rebellion against the Shiite Iranian regime in Iranian Baluchistan. They have blown up a Shiite mosque, killing 25, and managed to kill 50 in a bombing in Pishin last October, where their victims included some top commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, against which Mrs. Clinton has now declared war. There is no doubt that Jundullah is on the US payroll. This fact has been confirmed by Brian Ross of ABC News, the London Daily Telegraph, and by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. Hersh noted that Jundullah has received some of the $400 million appropriated by the US Congress in the most recent Bush-era regime change legislation targeting Iran.

Jundullah is a key part of the US-UK strategy of fomenting ethnic and religious civil war in both Iran and Pakistan. Jundullah is a twofer in this context, since it can help destabilize both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border. Baluchistan has special importance because any oil pipeline linking Iran with China must go straight across Baluchistan. Jundullah’s false flag jihad is a means to make sure that strategic pipeline, which would help solve China’s energy problem, is never built.

There is also no doubt that Jundullah functions as an arm of NATO, a kind of irregular warfare asset similar in some ways to the KLA of Kosovo. Rigi is reported by the Iranians to have met with Jop de Hoop Scheffer when he was NATO Secretary General. Rigi has also met with various NATO generals operating in Afghanistan. Who knows — he may have met with McChrystal himself, a covert ops veteran from Iraq.

This capture comes at a moment when Baluchistan is the object of intense US-UK exertions. The current US-NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan targets Marjah and the rest of Helmand province, which directly faces Baluchistan. Many observers were puzzled when the US and NATO publicized the Marjah offensive in advance. Militarist talking heads like General Barry McCaffrey responded that the main goal of the Marjah offensive was not to destroy the Taliban, but to drive them out of the province. It was thus clear from the beginning that the real goal was to drive the Helmand Taliban fighters into Pakistani Baluchistan. Why?

A statement from the Afghan Taliban covered on the RIA Novosti web site suggests that the real goal of the US-NATO offensive in Marjah-Helmand is to attack Chinese economic interests in Pakistani Baluchistan, and especially the port of Gwadar, one of China’s largest overseas projects. If the US can push the Taliban into Pakistani Baluchistan and into the area around Gwadar, they will have a pretext for militarization – perhaps through Blackwater mercenaries, who are already operating massively in Pakistan, or perhaps through direct US military involvement in the zone. US jackboots on the ground in Baluchistan would interfere mightily with Chinese economic development plans. They would also allow the US to commandeer Gwadar as the home port of a new NATO supply line into southern Afghanistan, allowing the avoidance of the Khyber Pass bottleneck. The US could also use Baluchistan as a springboard for bigger and better terror ops into Iran, electronic surveillance of Iranian activities, and so forth.

The US and NATO had evidently planned a double envelopment of Baluchistan, with Taliban fighters from Helmand arriving from the north, while the Jundullah escalated their own activity on the ground. Now that Rigi has joined his brother in Iranian jails, Jundullah has been decapitated, and the NATO strategy has consequently been undermined. Iran has bagged a dangerous terrorist foe. Another winner is Pakistan, where The Dawn celebrated the capture of Rigi as “a godsend” and “a lucky break” for Pakistan. By helping Rigi to fall into Iranian hands, Pakistan may have finally found an effective way to counter the US-UK strategy, which notoriously aims at the breakup and partition of Pakistan. The coming Iranian trial of Rigi may go far towards exposing the real mechanism of terrorism in today’s world, with the CIA sitting in the dock next to Rigi.


US offered Rigi 'extensive aid' for Iran attacks

Thu, 25 Feb 2010

The captured ringleader of the Jundallah terrorist group, Abdolmalek Rigi, has confessed that the US administration had assured him of unlimited military aid and funding for waging an insurgency against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The following is the detailed transcript of Rigi's confession, stated in Farsi, as broadcasted on Press TV.

"After Obama was elected, the Americans contacted us and they met me in Pakistan.They met us after clashes with my group around March 17 in (the southeastern city of) Zahedan, and he (the US operative) said that Americans had requested a meeting."

"I said we didn't have any time for a meeting and if we do help them they should promise to give us aid. They said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment, arms and machine guns. They also promised to give us a base along the border with Afghanistan next to Iran."

"They asked to meet me and we said where should we meet you and he said in Dubai. We sent someone to Dubai and we told a person to ask a place for myself in Afghanistan from the area near the operations and they complied that they would sort out the problem for us and they will find Mr. Rigi a base and guarantee his own security in Afghanistan or in any of the countries adjacent to Iran so that he can carry on his operations.

"They told me that in Kyrgyzstan they have a base called Manas near Bishkek, and that a high-ranking person was coming to meet me and that if such high-ranking people come to the United Arab Emirates, they may be observed by intelligence people but in a place like Bishkek this high-ranking American person could come and we could reach an agreement on making personal contacts. But after the last major operation we took part in, they said that they wanted to meet with us.

"The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran… not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran. We don't have a military plan against Iran. Attacking Iran is very difficult for us (the US). The CIA is very particular about you and is prepared to do anything for you because our government has reached the conclusion that there was nothing Americans could do about Iran and only I could take care of the operations for them.

"One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for us to attack Iran militarily, but we plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iran groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for the Iranian (Islamic) system. They reached the conclusion that your organization has the power to create difficulties for the Islamic Republic and they are prepared to give you training and/or any assistance that you would require, in terms of telecommunications security and procedures as well as other support, the Americans said they would be willing to provide it at an extensive level."

Iran's security forces arrested Rigi on Tuesday by bringing down his plane over the Iranian airspace, as he was onboard a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan.


Thursday, 25 February 2010

intel updates: iran, baluchistan, echelon, dubai


Iran arrests most wanted man after police board civilian flight

Iran forced down a civilian airliner on Tuesday to arrest the leader of a terrorist group it claims is backed by Britain, Israel and the United States.

By Richard Spencer in Dubai, Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

23 Feb 2010

Abdol Malek Rigi under armed guard following his arrest.
Abdol Malek Rigi under armed guard following his arrest. Photo: Reuters

Abdol Malek Rigi, Iran's most wanted man, was shown by television cameras being hauled off a jet in handcuffs by four men wearing balaclavas.

Officials were vague about the details of the arrest, but state media said Rigi had been on board a flight from Dubai to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, after visiting a US military base in Afghanistan.

Bishkek airport confirmed that Kyrgyzstan Airways flight QH454 from Dubai had arrived several hours late yesterday after being told to land by Iran.

Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, claimed that Rigi, the leader of the Sunni terror group Jundullah, had been at the US base 24 hours before his arrest.

At a dramatic press conference he flourished a photograph which he said showed Rigi outside the base with two other men, though he gave no details of where the base was, or how or when the photograph was obtained.

The photograph itself gave no clues as to the location. Photographs were also shown of an Afghan passport and identity card said to have been given by the Americans to Rigi.

Mr Moslehi also alleged that Rigi had met the then Nato secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in Afghanistan in 2008, and had visited European countries.

He said agents had tracked Rigi's movements for five months, calling his arrest "a great defeat for the US and UK".

Iran has repeatedly claimed that Jundullah, which has carried out a series of bombings in support of demands for better treatment for the border region of Balochistan, is backed directly by Pakistan but also by Britain, Israel and America.

It has also been alleged by western media, including The Sunday Telegraph, that in 2007 CIA provided funding and weapons to Jundullah.

The group's most serious attack, in October last year, killed two generals of the Revolutionary Guard along with more than 40 of their men and tribal chiefs whom they were meeting in a town in Balochistan near the border with Pakistan.

Previously, it blew up a Shia mosque killing 25 people in May, following which 18 members of the group were executed. Rigi's brother, Abdol Hamid Rigi, was reprieved at the last moment after agreeing to give evidence against his brother, who he said had received money from the United States.

According to one report yesterday, Rigi was arrested "outside the country", according to another, in Pakistan. A third version said the plane landed in Sistan-Balochistan itself.

Pakistan is said to have been co-operating with Iran recently in arresting Jundullah members.

"This is another disgrace for countries who claim human rights," the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said.

American involvement was denied by a US official. "This is of course a totally bogus accusation," the official said. A Foreign Office spokesman said it did not comment on intelligence matters.

A spokesman for Nato "flatly denied" that any meeting had taken place between Mr Scheffer and Rigi, although Mr Scheffer did visit Afghanistan in 2008.

Asked whether Rigi could have met an ISAF officer, the spokesman said: "It is the first I have ever heard of any Nato officials meeting people like that."

The Iranian operation is another example of foreign intelligence agents using Dubai's open border policy to follow a "target", shortly after the assassination in the emirate of a senior Hamas official.

Dubai has long had close ties to Iran, but has been under considerable pressure to rein them in. There was a hint of Iran's annoyance at this change of policy in Mr Moslehi's press conference.

"He was arrested on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan," Mr Moslehi said. "It is such a scandal for Dubai in this incident, which shows that the Zionist regime, by using the US and Europe, is seeking to turn the region into a haven for terrorists.

"This scandal cannot be covered up."


February 24-25, 2010

with permission

By Wayne Madsen

Playing three card monte with airplanes

The February 23 capture by Iran of the CIA-backed Jundallah Baluchi terrorist leader Abdolmalek Rigi when his plane was forced to land in Bandar Abbas airport in Iran is raising more questions about the role of Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in the operation.

Published news reports appear to be exercises in disinformation by the western corporate media and the Iranian and Pakistani media. At least two planes appear to have been involved in the Iranian capture of Rigi and some of his associates.

A story was floated by the neocon-oriented Daily Telegraph of the UK on February 24 that indicated that Rigi was forced off a Kyrgyzstan Airways flight from Dubai to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The flight was said to have carried 119 passengers, including Rigi, when Iranian agents on board forced the plane to land at Bandar Abbas, Iran, where Rigi was taken into custody by four masked elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (see below). However, the photograph shopped around by the media, including the Iranian media, shows Rigi being taken off a plane that is much smaller than the Kyrgyzstan flight QH454 that normally flies the route between Dubai and Bishkek. The small plane pictured below resembles a small jet, possibly a Lear or Dassault Falcon. KYRGYZSTAN's fleet includes 3 Antonov AN-24s, 1 Tupolev TU-134a, and 2 Yakovlev YAK-40s.

The "QH" flight designator is for KYRGYZSTAN, not "Kyrgyzstan Airlines" as reported by the Telegraph. There is another airline, "Kyrgyzstan Airlines, that flies from Islamabad, Pakistan to Bishkek but it does not fly to Dubai as does KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan Airlines uses the flight designator of "R8." Kyrgyzstan Airlines' fleet consists of two Airbuses, six Antonovs, one Boeing 737, five Tupolevs, one Ilyushin IL-76TD, and two Yakovlevs.

There is also an aircraft marking difference between the small plane from which Rigi is removed and KYRGYZSTAN. The small plane bears blue, white, and red striping while KYRGYZSTAN planes bear a solid red stripe (see far below).

The mystery of how Rigi was captured remains murky with even DebkaFile of Israel, seen as close to the Mossad, unable to report more than the following: "The sparse details filtering through from Dubai and Tehran by Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, indicate that Abdol Malek Rigi boarded Kyrgyzstan Airways flight QH454 bound from Dubai for Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday. He was not traveling with bodyguards. A group of Iranian special operatives were among the 119 passengers. The flight was intercepted as soon as it crossed into Iranian airspace near Bandar Abbas and forced by an Iranian warplane to land at a military air base.ital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday." DebkaFile concedes that the Iranians pulled off a masterful operation in capturing Rigi.

The Iranians are presumably not only finding out from Rigi the extent of the CIA's support for the anti-Iranian government Jundallah Baluchi movement in Pakistan but also how the CIA has armed and provided logistical support to anti-Pakistani Baluchi secessionists -- a fact that will further alienate Islamabad from Washington and help forge a new Pakistani-Iranian intelligence alliance.

Of particular interest to the Iranians and Pakistanis are the CIA's operations at the Shamshi airbase in Pakistan, control over which was ceded by Pakistan to the CIA in October 2001. Blackwater/Xe personnel also operate from the Shamshi base, an important air transit hub between the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Gulf and U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

The CIA's support for Iranian Baluchis operating against Tehran has also had the effect of restoring the Baluchi Liberation Army, with CIA munitions destined for the Jundallah guerrillas falling into the hands of Baluchi secessionists in Pakistan, particularly among the Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes that now threaten to disrupt trans-Pakistani pipelines to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is being developed by Chinese engineers and construction companies. The CIA, apparently unable or unwilling to distinguish between the Iranian and Baluchis and their agendas, permitted explosives and detonators destined for use in Iran to be used against regular Pakistani army units and Chinese assets assisting in the Gwadar port project.

Pakistan also suspects American energy politics at play. By stirring up Baluchis on both sides of the Pakistani-Iranian border, the CIA stands to disrupt planned natural gas pipelines from Qatar to Pakistan that will transit through Iran and the Iran-Gujarat oil pipeline.

WMR's intelligence sources have provided a best guess scenario for what occurred in regard to Rigi and his capture by the Iranians. Our sources state that Iranian intelligence is claiming very loudly that they captured Rigi without any foreign assistance. This apepars to be for cover satrory purposes. If ISI delivered him to Bandar Abbas aboard a Lear, the Iranians had at least a half day to arrange for the touchdown of the KYRGYZSTAN Dubai-Manas flight to cover up the actual flight from Gwadar. If the Iranians had a couple of their agents pretend to be Rigi they fooled the world and allowed Pakistan's ISI to get off the hook as far as their involvement was concerned. Rigi was reported not to be traveling with bodyguards from Dubai to Bishkek, which does not explain the detention of another individual, reported by some sources to have been Jundallah's "number two man."

Passengers on the KYRGYZSTAN flight diverted to Bandar Abbas claimed that two men were removed by Iranian agents. The passengers assumed that one was Rigi. However, informed observers in the region now believe that the passenger plane diversion was a cover for the delivery of Rigi by the ISI to Iranian hands.

There is also a possibility that Iranian agents gained access to a CIA contractor charter flight from Gwadar to Dubai, commandeered the flight to Bandar Abbas, and grabbed Rigi. Oddly enough, a U.S.-based charter aircraft company does operate from Gwadar Airport, Stratos Jet Charters, which provides Citations, Beechjets, Lears, Hawkers, Falcons, Challengers or Gulfstreams. The firm is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

The U.S. arming of the Iranian Baluchis is part of a CIA covert program to stir up Iran's ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs in Khuzestan, Azeris, Turkomen, as well as Baluchis. Last November, the American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) organized a conference in support of Baluchistan at the National Press Club in Washington. The Washington event was reported to have had links to the CIA.

One major question that remains is why was Rigi traveling to the U.S. airbase at Manas, Kyrgyzstan some two days after meeting with senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan and, reportedly, Pakistan? It is something Iranian intelligence is keen to discover.

Wayne Madsen

Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. His columns have appeared in a wide number of newspapers and journals. Madsen is a regular contributor on Russia Today. He has written The Handbook of Personal Data Protection (London: Macmillan, 1992); Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999 (Edwin Mellen Press, 1999); Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops & Brass Plates and Overthrow a Fascist Regime on $15 a Day and co-authored America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II (Dandelion, 2003).


Balochistan: CIA's Crumbling Project

A photograph has surfaced that shows a terrorist wanted by Iran visiting a US military base in Afghanistan. Another terrorist wanted by Pakistan has also been spotted meeting Indian spies under American watch—in Afghanistan. Iran arrests one such terrorist but Pakistan’s pro-US government refuses to take a stand on a terrorist insurgency openly backed by rogue US elements, with Indian support.


Tuesday, 23 February 2010.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan— After occupying Afghanistan, rogue CIA elements launched a campaign to create a new state of Balochistan out of two conjoined provinces in Pakistan and Iran. This was done to create the shortest possible supply route from the sea to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. The Sunni-Shia divide was exploited in Iran and a language-based divide was used in Pakistan. In other words, the result was a sectarian Balochi insurgency in Iran and an ethnic one in Pakistan.This is how Jundullah was born in Iran and Balochistan Liberation Army in Pakistan. Both were armed and supported by CIA using the Afghan soil. But this American terror infrastructure is now crumbling.

Fast. The idea of using Afghan soil for regional US strategies – against Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China, as the need be – has failed miserably. One reason is exposure. Eight years is enough time for everyone to understand the double game being played in the region in the name of war on terror, which is America’s war no matter how many millions of dollars the US government invests in propaganda in the region to convince the people it is otherwise. Despite a pliant Pakistani government, Pakistan, for example, is not ready to cooperate with the United States if Pakistani interests are not protected along with US interests. Pakistan took a long time to take a stand. But it has come around finally. Of course CIA was not operating alone. It enlisted the help of India and several Western intelligence agencies, turning Afghanistan into a source of regional destabilization. That’s exactly what al-Qaeda was doing before 2002. The arrest of the ringleader of CIA-backed Jundullah group, Mr. Abdolmalek Rigi, is a major development. Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi showed damning evidence today to the media, confirming beyond doubt the terror group’s link to US intelligence in Afghanistan: “In a press conference Moslehi showed a photograph of the leader of the group, Abdulmalek Rigi, 24 hours before his arrest at a US troops camp in Afghanistan, as well as an ID card, an Afghan passport and a Dubai visa belonging to Rigi and prepared by the US to facilitate his travels in the region as evidence to show the terrorist leader’s cooperation with Washington and certain other countries.” Last year, his younger brother Abdolhamid Rigi was arrested by Pakistani intelligence and handed over to Iran. The younger Rigi admitted on television to meeting US diplomats, or possible intelligence agents, in Karachi and Islamabad. The worst part of the story is that former President Musharraf might have allowed CIA-backed Jundullah to use Pakistani soil, along with Afghanistan’s, to mount operations inside Iran. Of course there were times when Iran did the same: organize and arm sectarian militant groups inside Pakistan as part of Iran’s policy of militarizing Shia minorities in neighboring countries. But that was a different time. What the Americans were doing in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan was tied to the parallel terror insurgency in Pakistani Balochistan. It is possible that this was one more concession that Mr. Musharraf granted US in Pakistan. But it is Pakistan and its intelligence that arrested and handed over Jundullah leader’s younger brother to Iran last year. Pakistani intelligence might have had something to do with the arrest of the elder Rigi too. But Iranian officials are denying that Pakistan helped them in any way in this arrest, and won’t say where Abdolhamid Rigi was seized. Pakistan has been bound by many of the secret understandings and concessions that Mr. Musharraf made with Washington. The Zardari government that succeeded him is suspected of having more secret understandings than its predecessor. But the Pakistani military has been gradually relieving Pakistan of many unreasonable unilateral concessions [Example: US passport holders can no longer use a separate gate to enter and exit from Pakistani airports without scrutiny]. But at same time, the Pakistani military is bound by other government-to-government commitments made by Mr. Musharraf and now the Zardari government.

But there are enough signs that elements within the US intelligence community continue to support terrorism inside Pakistan in the name of Balochistan. With US nod, India has recently recruited around 100 poor Pakistanis from Balochistan and transported them for training in India. New Delhi is doing this using Afghan soil. Another evidence is a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, this week that called for breaking up Pakistan and creating an independent state called Balochistan. The conference was organized by a Paris-based group called Baloch Voice Foundation, which has not been known before. Unconfirmed reports suggest that this foundation is funded by Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that shows a lot of interest in the potential for separatism in Pakistan and Iran. The US think tank’s website says that it provides unbiased information from Russia, China and “the world of terrorism,” which pretty much sums up how it views Muslim-dominated regions. India actively supports terror groups that claim Baloch representation but it is American citizens and groups that have been making the loudest noises over Balochistan since 2002. This has to do with Indo-US sharing of ideas over Pakistan after 2001 and that story makes for interesting reading. It is interesting how the government of Thailand allowed the use of its soil for an anti-Pakistan activity. Pakistani protesters outside the Bangkok hotel didn’t miss this point and raised it on their placards. But Pakistan’s pro-US government remains silent on this blatant act of war on the part of the Thai government.

Taking cue from Iran’s action against Jundullah, and Israel’s action against a Hamas activist in Dubai, Pakistan needs to get firm on eliminating the Afghan-based nursery of terrorism inside Pakistan.

© 2007-2009. All rights reserved. & PakNationalists Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Incessant Targeting Of Pakistan

No sooner did Pakistan arrest leading Afghan Taliban figures, conspiracy theories surfaced in the US media in an attempt to malign Pakistan. Indians and their apologists in US were at the forefront of this campaign. Far from appreciating Pakistani stand, strong signs exist that CIA continues its double game against Pakistan. Despite statements to the contrary, Washington continues to bet on the puppet regime of President Asif Ali Zardari.

By Shireen M. Mazari

Wednesday, 24 February 2010.

The Nation


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The US duplicity in its dealings with Pakistan continues unabated and I have always maintained that the scale of their enterprise in destabilizing Pakistan can only be understood by finding linkages in seemingly unconnected events and publications. Just when the Pakistan military has taken a strong position on its military operations in FATA and the pull towards dialogue with the tribals is becoming evident, the US subversive activities against Pakistan are becoming more overt, and old CIA connections are taking centre stage again including so-called “experts” on Pakistan!

Let us look at some recent developments and see the linkages. First, after incessant cries from ignorant US officials and even more ignorant but imperialist minded media, of Pakistan not doing enough against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, when the Pakistanis captured a leading Taliban commander, suddenly the Americans - and their media and officialdom do have close connections - through their media led forth a new chant of why Pakistan had arrested this man!

There were conspiracy theories that immediately began floating that somehow Pakistan arrested this Taliban commander to disrupt the dialogue that Karzai is seeking with the Taliban because Pakistan wants to remain in control of any such dialogue. Talk about bizarre assumptions! So, as some of us have always maintained, in the eyes of the US, Pakistanis will always find themselves in a position of “damned if we do and damned if we don’t.” I

t is time therefore to wash our hands off this whole US-led misguided “war on terror” and evolve our own strategies to deal with our own problem of violence and extremism which is multidimensional and cannot be straitjacketed into merely a Taliban framework. Nor is this all. A new campaign has begun in the US, published first in the Wall Street Journal where two American lawyers, David Rivkin and Lee Casey - both of whom served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George Bush administrations - have accused Pakistan’s Chief Justice Chaudhry of being “the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama.” Supporting Zardari, the lawyers make all manner of unsubstantiated accusations against Pakistan’s chief justice. What seems to have upset these Americans is the CJ’s popularity being far greater than Zardari’s in the eyes of the Pakistani people - by their own admission! But then the American anger at the CJ is understandable because he has fought the cause of the Pakistani people especially through the Missing Persons issue - many sold to the US - while President Zardari and his loyalists have continued to plead the US cause. But it should be unacceptable to any self-respecting Pakistani to have their CJ referred to in such a derogatory fashion. Look how Holbrooke reacted when Pakistanis protested at the miscarriage of justice in New York in the Dr Aafia case, despite the fact that the US has a record of such miscarriages of justice against African Americans and minorities, especially Muslims post 9/11. A third line of attack is the revival of the Baloch separatist issue with that old Pakistan basher Selig Harrison reviving his fortunes again and taking the lead in targeting the Pakistani state. He first took up this passion when the Soviets went into Afghanistan and led the chorus of how Pakistan was not doing enough of the US bidding in Afghanistan. He was an “Afghan” expert at the time but once Afghanistan receded into the background he became a “Balochistan” expert and now he is deeply involved in aiding Baloch separatists in Iran and Pakistan.

Various platforms have been used by him and the latest is the ongoing conference in Bangkok, Thailand, supposedly sponsored by an unknown group calling themselves the Baloch Voice Foundation (BVF) and supported by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based in The Hague and, of course, Selig Harrison! The BVF interestingly is funded by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation which, according to information available on the internet, is controlled by Freedom House which in turn is linked to the CIA. The venue of the conference also raises suspicions about CIA involvement since the US government has used Thailand for many conferences dealing with South Asian issues. Also, the fact that Iranian Baloch separatists have been included shows the US connection even more glaringly. In any case, despite our government’s usual mysterious silence on this issue, some Pakistanis have been protesting about the conference in Bangkok. After all, why should Thailand allow its territory to be used for a Baloch separatist conference? Would Thailand like Pakistan to allow a similar exercise in relation to its internal matters, in Islamabad? More to the point, as happens when different agencies’ sponsor different groups, infighting has broken out amongst the Balochs. Munir Mengal, founder of Baloch Voice TV, is supposedly the organizer of this conference. He is also the man who claimed that a host of Pakistani Baloch women had been jailed in Balochistan but when Nawab Raisani had the jails checked during his efforts to free the abducted UN official last year, this claim proved incorrect.

As a result of this conference, internal battles have come to the fore between the Washington-based American Friends of Balochistan, the Dubai, London and Moscow (no doubt remnants from the Soviet days) based activists and the so-called Government of Balochistan in Exile which claims it is based in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is not surprising, given the different sponsors of the different groups! A further blow to the conference has come from the fact that supporters of Khair Bux Marri have boycotted the event. This is not the first conference of its type but it is interesting to see how the Blood Borders US agenda of creating a state of Balochistan from Iranian and Pakistani territories is now being given shape and separatists from both countries are being brought together. As always, Selig Harrison is playing his questionable role!

Nor is this the only targeting of Pakistan and Iran together. In the coming days we should gear up for a new nuclear related hype building up in the US media. Unfortunately, Dr Khan’s “letters” have been purchased by a leading US newspaper and will be used to target Iran. In the process Pakistan will also be targeted - killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Would that our government undertake some proactive measures with the Iranians to deflect this new campaign but it hardly seems likely.

So we need to brace ourselves once again for an onslaught against our nuclear capability and accusations of proliferation at a time when the US continues to proliferate to Israel and, post the 123 Agreement with India, to this South Asian aspiring hegemon. Now who says there are no linkages targeting Pakistan and Iran?

Dr. Mazari is a renowned defense analyst and the Editor of The Nation. She can be reached at

© 2007-2009. All rights reserved. & PakNationalists Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Echelon computers can't cope with bad lines

'What? Osama bin who? Yes, we sell nukes. Say again?'

Who remembers Echelon, the top-secret telecommunications spy network said to be run by the US and allied Anglophone nations, and to be triggered as soon as certain key words or phrases are spoken on the phone?

A lot of you, we'd guess. So it's interesting to note that Pentagon boffins have now stated that perhaps the most intriguing reputed capability of Echelon - the ability to automatically pick out words of interest and flag that conversation up as important to its human masters - doesn't work. Or anyway, it only works on good, clear lines: a noisy or degraded signal frustrates it.

The news comes as part of a solicitation from the Pentagon crazytech bureau, DARPA, in which the maverick military mayhem mavens request assistance with building a Robust Automatic Transcription of Speech (RATS) system. According to DARPA:

Existing transcription and translation and speech signal processing technologies are insufficient for working with noisy or degraded speech signals that are of importance to current and future Department of Defense (DoD) operations. Currently, there is no technological solution [our emphasis] which effectively addresses this kind of noisy and distorted speech signal, so operational units are forced to allocate significant human resources for this task.

One should note that America's feared National Security Agency (NSA, generally thought to be in charge of Echelon) is actually an arm of the DoD, not a civilian organisation.

DARPA says that the proposed RATS system should be able to tackle noisy audio signals and tell on its own whether they are speech or something else such as music. It should then be able to identify the language being spoken, and tell whether the speaker is a person of interest using voiceprint technology. Finally, the RATS software should be able to "identify specific words or phrases from a list of items in the language being spoken" - just what Echelon is supposed to be able to do already, only DARPA assure us that no such tech exists. Or anyway, none able to tackle a noisy signal.

So it would seem, if the DARPA announcement is on the level, that all you need do to evade the toils of Echelon - apart from making sure your call can't be intercepted, which is liable to be tricky - is introduce a bit of noise. At least until the RATS tech is developed, anyway, though as this is a "DARPA hard" project - ie so hard it's rather unlikely to be feasible - this will probably never happen.

Alternatively the DARPA announcement is merely a smokescreen to obscure the existence and capabilities of Echelon; or perhaps DARPA are merely looking to replicate those capabilities for use by less exalted military intelligence units in the field, as opposed to the mighty computer farms of the NSA in Maryland. The RATS requirement specifically mentions the languages Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Dari and Urdu, suggesting that we might be talking here about conversations grabbed off satellite phones in southwest Asia, rather than ones gleaned from telecoms networks in the West.

However, as anyone knows who has used the voice-control/dictation tech which comes in smartphones and computers these days, the state of the art isn't terribly advanced for voiceware designed to run on normal platforms. The history of troubled voice-to-text firm SpinVox tends to illustrate this point too. DARPA may struggle to deliver a pocket, noise-proof Echelon to intercept teams working in and around Afghanistan.

And it's at least plausible that the real, big Echelon isn't actually quite as omniscient as people think.

The DARPA solicitation can be read here in pdf ( ®

Related stories

US military cyberwar force will work with NSA (24 June 2009)

NSA offering 'billions' for Skype eavesdrop solution (12 February 2009)


Dubai suspects travel route 2009

Dubai suspects travel route 2010

geopolitics: shift of the balance of power (6 texts)

Balance of Power Shift Coming Says Wolfensohn, Former World Bank President

In the next 40 years, a global power shift will see today's leading economic countries drop from having 80% of the world's income to 35%, says John Wolfensohn, former World Bank president. By 2030, two-thirds of people in the world's middle class will be Chinese.

January 2010


James Wolfensohn is all about balance. The former World Bank president introduced himself to a student audience Jan. 11 by talking about how he is grateful at this point in his life to devote time and money to a "balance between business and nonbusiness activities." And in the speech before an overflow crowd, he urged students to "enrich your life as you enrich your business."

"That aspect of duality is the thing that has made my life meaningful" he said.

But the balance of power in the world is what Wolfensohn spent the majority of his hour-long appearance on. A huge power shift will occur in the next 40 years that will reduce the influence of the wealthiest countries, he said. As population and GDP grows in countries such as China and India, they will assume a larger role in relationship to the United States and Europe. The developed countries will drop from having 80% of the world's income to 35%. "There will be a monumental shift of economic power. It's not just a moderation trend, but a fundamental change in the world balance," he said.

By 2030, two-thirds of people in the world's middle class will be Chinese, Wolfensohn said. "These are not trivial changes -- they are tectonic changes in the way the planet works. In my generation we didn't have to think about it. We knew we were a rich country."

But today's students will have to confront a new world in which Africa is no longer an isolated continent but the fastest-growing market for cell phones.

Looking around the auditorium, Wolfensohn noted that many more students from China and India travel to the United States to study, rather than the other way around. In 2007 just 11,200 Americans studied in China. That year more than 110,000 Chinese were studying in the United States.

"It's a tragedy in terms of the potential of young people that they're still being guided to look at European countries," he said.

Wolfensohn was making a repeat appearance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business as a speaker in the Global Management Program's Global Speaker Series. In 2004, while still at the helm of the World Bank, he spoke about how developed countries were delivering on the promise they made to aid developing ones.

He stepped down in 2005 from a decade-long career heading the agency that is in charge of redistributing the world's wealth from the rich to the poor. He now heads an investment banking firm in New York. At 76, he is still advising organizations and governments on economic policy and helps developing countries through his foundation.

Asked about whether humanitarian aid to Africa was a help or a hindrance, Wolfensohn said aid organizations need to be selective. "There are some extremely corrupt countries," he said, adding that the best countries should be rewarded. "I say to the others: it's not acceptable to steal."

He also predicted a shakeup in how the leadership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would be appointed. Traditionally, the president of the former was from the United States and the latter from Europe. The bank may be "internationalized" in the future.

The World Bank's stated goal is to reduce poverty. As an international financial institution, it provides loans to developing countries for capital programs. It was created out of World War II with France as the first recipient of world aid. In the late 1960s the emphasis shifted to loans for developing countries.

Wolfensohn is a native of Sydney, Australia, and a naturalized U.S. citizen. In addition to his firm, Wolfensohn & Co., he is an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institution. He was appointed to head the World Bank in 1995 by President Bill Clinton and served two terms.

Joyce Routson



New US-free Americas bloc agreed

Latin American and Caribbean nations have agreed to set up a new regional body without the US and Canada.

The new bloc would be an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), the main forum for regional affairs in the past 50 years.

Mexico has been hosting a regional summit in the beach resort of Cancun.

The OAS has been dogged by rifts between some members and the US over economic policy and trade, and criticised for promoting US interests.

'Regional integration'

The proposed new grouping was one of the main issues on the agenda of the two-day summit, which ended on Tuesday.

It "must as a priority push for regional integration... and promote the regional agenda in global meetings", Mexican President Felipe Calderon told the summit, which includes leaders and representatives from 32 countries.

Cuban President Raul Castro was quick to applaud Mr Calderon's announcement as a historic move toward "the constitution of a purely Latin American and Caribbean regional organisation".

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 because of its socialist political system. In 2009, the OAS voted to lift Cuba's suspension but the country has declined to rejoin.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier expressed his support for the proposal, citing it as a move away from US "colonising" of the region.

A US State Department official, Arturo Valenzuela, said he did not see the new body as a problem.

"This should not be an effort that would replace the OAS, " he said.

The terms of the new bloc and whether it would replace the Rio Group of Latin American countries has not been clarified.

"It's very important that we don't try to replace the OAS," said Chile's President-elect Sebastian Pinera. "The OAS is a permanent organisation that has its own functions."

On Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales proposed that it begin operating in July 2011 with a summit hosted by Venezuela.

Falklands row

The Cancun summit has also unanimously backed Argentina's claim over the British-owned Falklands.

Argentina is angered that a UK firm has begun drilling for oil off the Falkland Islands, which lie about 450km (280 miles) off the Argentine coast.

Argentina and Britain went to war over the South Atlantic islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, in 1982, after Buenos Aires invaded them.

The leaders at Cancun also discussed whether to recognise Porfirio Lobo as the legitimate president of Honduras after he was elected president under interim authorities following a 28 June coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya.

A long-term plan to help Haiti recover from the devastating January earthquake was also on the agenda.


updates from The Times:

US refuses to endorse British sovereignty in Falklands oil dispute

Brazil attacks UN over Falklands stand-off

Latin America backs Argentina as Britain begins Falklands oil quest

February 23, 2010

Argentina cemented a Latin American front over the Falklands yesterday as a British oil rig began drilling in the disputed seas around the islands.

Regional leaders at the Rio Group summit in Mexico were expected to sign up for a resolution backing Argentina in its escalating row with Britain after Brazil and Chile pledged their support.

Venezuela’s vociferous President, Hugo Chávez, set the tone of the summit, offering military support. Characterising Britain as an imperialist relic, Mr Chávez demanded the return of "Las Malvinas", as they are known to Argentinians.

“The English are still threatening Argentina. Things have changed. We are no longer in 1982,” he warned. “If conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then.”

British control of the archipelago was “anti-historic and irrational”, the former paratrooper continued, asking “why the English speak of democracy but still have a Queen”.

Unlike 1982, when some Latin American nations, notably President Pinochet’s Chile, backed Britain’s campaign to repel Argentina’s brief invasion of the islands, the continent now enjoys strong ties between ideologically aligned governments and could mount a powerful resistance to British oil operations.

Mr Chávez was joined by President Ortega of Nicaragua, who predicted that the Rio Group would throw its weight behind Argentina’s claim. “We will back a resolution demanding that England return Las Malvinas to its rightful owner, that it return the islands to Argentina,” he said.

Brazil, the biggest regional power and traditionally Argentina’s main rival, was similarly supportive. “Las Malvinas must be reintegrated into Argentine sovereignty,” Marco Aurelio García, foreign policy adviser to President Lula da Silva, said, adding: “Unlike in the past, today there is a consensus in Latin America behind Argentina’s claims.”

Almost three decades on from the confict, the defeat of Argentina still stings the national consciousness as an historic injury which must be redressed. President Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has made the issue a central plank of her presidency, whipping up long-simmering resentments that have only been compounded by the prospect of a black gold bonanza in the isolated, windswept archipelago.

The British Geological Survey estimates that up to 60 billion barrels of oil could be beneath Falklands waters, although Desire Petroleum, the company carrying out the drilling, says that the commericially viable reserves are much smaller.

Desire said that test drilling at the Liz 14/19-A exploration site off the Falklands began at 1415 GMT yesterday. “Drilling operations are expected to take approximately 30 days and a further announcement will be made once drilling is completed.

Tensions between the former adversaries rose last week to their highest level since the war, as Argentina attempted to block ships supplying what it says are “illegal” British activities and Britain hit back with a warning that the islands were much better defended than on the eve of the Argentine invasion in 1982.


February 24, 2010

Gates Calls European Mood a Danger to Peace

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has long called European contributions to NATO inadequate, said Tuesday that public and political opposition to the military had grown so great in Europe that it was directly affecting operations in Afghanistan and impeding the alliance’s broader security goals.

“The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st,” he told NATO officers and officials in a speech at the National Defense University, the Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and diplomats.

A perception of European weakness, he warned, could provide a “temptation to miscalculation and aggression” by hostile powers.

The meeting was a prelude to the alliance’s review this year of its basic mission plan for the first time since 1999. “Right now,” Mr. Gates said, “the alliance faces very serious, long-term, systemic problems.”

Mr. Gates’s blunt comments came just three days after the coalition government of the Netherlands collapsed in a dispute over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan. It now appears almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops there will be withdrawn this year. And polls show that the Afghanistan war has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European country.

The defense secretary, putting a sharper point on his past criticisms, outlined how NATO shortfalls were exacting a material toll in Afghanistan. The alliance’s failure to finance needed helicopters and cargo aircraft, for example, was “directly impacting operations,” he said.

Mr. Gates said that NATO also needed more aerial refueling tankers and intelligence-gathering equipment “for immediate use on the battlefield.”

Yet alliance members, he noted, were far from reaching their spending commitments, with only 5 of 28 having reached the established target: 2 percent of gross domestic product for defense. By comparison, the United States spends more than 4 percent of its G.D.P. on its military.

Dana Allin, a senior fellow with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, called Mr. Gates’s remarks “very striking.”

“Whether this is a conscious statement to sound a real sharp warning, there’s no question that the frustration among the American military establishment is palpable regarding coalition operations in Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr. Gates did soften his message a bit, noting that, not counting United States forces, NATO troops in Afghanistan were to increase to 50,000 this year, from 30,000 last year.

“By any measure,” he said, “that is an extraordinary feat.”

More sobering, he said, was that just two months into the year, NATO was facing shortfalls of hundreds of millions of euros — “a natural consequence of having underinvested in collective defense for over a decade.”

NATO’s problems — greatly magnified by the expansion of its mandate beyond European borders, following 9/11 — called for “serious, far-reaching and immediate reforms,” Mr. Gates said.

Indeed, the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, last month turned to an unlikely source — Russia — to request helicopters for use in Afghanistan, arguing that this would help reduce the terrorism threat and drug trade on a border of the former Soviet Union.

Mr. Rasmussen, speaking at the same meeting as Mr. Gates, said that NATO’s members needed to better coordinate their weapons purchases. The European Union and NATO should collaborate on developing capabilities like heavy-lift helicopters, he said, and avoid “spending double money.”


Dutch confirm Afghan troop pullout sparking fears of domino effect

February 22, 2010

Nato was left in fear of further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan yesterday after the Dutch Prime Minister conceded that he could not prevent his forces being pulled out this year after the collapse of the Government in The Hague.

Jan Peter Balkenende lost the argument over extending the deployment at a 16-hour Cabinet session, in the first big reversal for the recently appointed Nato leader, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had publicly requested a continued Dutch commitment.

“Our task as the lead nation [in Uruzgan province] ends in August,” Mr Balkenende said. After a three-month draw-down, the Dutch will be completely out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

There are concerns that other countries where public opinion is turning against the Afghan campaign could follow, notably Canada, which has had the biggest proportional casualty rate and is committed to withdrawing its 2,800 troops by the end of next year. Another concern is the continued presence of 1,000 Australian troops. The Canberra Government has repeatedly refused to take over the lead role in Uruzgan if Holland leaves, demanding that a big Nato power provide the main share of troop numbers.

Just as important is the impression that European countries are struggling to find their share of the 10,000 extra troops requested by US General Stanley McChrystal to join 30,000 extra US troops in Afghanistan, with France ruling out more forces and a fierce debate in Germany.

The Times understands that the Dutch forces in Uruzgan will be replaced by US troops, diverting them from the surge operation against the Taleban.

Asadullah Hamdam, governor of Uruzgan, said that peace and reconstruction efforts would suffer, telling the BBC that the Dutch played a key role in building roads, training Afghan police and providing security for civilians. “If they withdraw and leave these projects incomplete, they will leave a big vacuum,” he said.

A British security source said: “This is a big setback because the Dutch are very highly rated. It is also a psychological blow, because as soon as one country leaves it starts making the public in other countries worried.”

Although the Dutch endured some sniping from bigger Nato powers about their perceived lack of aggression after they deployed to Uruzgan in 2006, their “population centric” strategy was a precursor of “The McChrystal Doctrine” adopted by British and American forces.

Mr Balkenende faces a general election in May after his main coalition partners, PvdA, the Labour party, walked out rather than break a promise to withdraw the 1,950 Dutch troops this year. Wouter Bos, the Labour leader, said: “A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan. Our partners in the government did not want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign.”

Mr Balkenende’s Christian Democrats and Labour are forecast to lose seats in the 150-member parliament. The two big gainers are forecast to be the ultra-liberals D66 and the right-wing Party of Freedom of the anti-Islamist MP Geert Wilders. Both oppose the Afghan mission.

A recent poll put support for keeping Dutch troops in Uruzgan at 35 per cent compared with 58 per cent for withdrawal, after 21 Dutch deaths.

The Dutch mission in Afghanistan was due to end in 2008, but the Government extended it until August 2010 — a decision made while the head of Nato was Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, a former Dutch defence minister.

In October Mr Rasmussen said: “I would regret a Dutch withdrawal. We are at a critical juncture, where there should be no doubt about our firm commitment. Any doubts will simply play into the hands of those who want us to fail.” This month he issued a letter to The Hague requesting that Dutch troops stay for another year in a reduced training role, a gesture that may have been designed to be helpful by ending their frontline role, but which ended up dividing the Cabinet


Feb. 21, 2010

War game shows how attacking Iran could backfire

Warren P. Strobel

McClatchy Newspapers

February 21, 2010

WASHINGTON — Here's a war game involving Iran, Israel and the U.S. that shows how unintended consequences can spin out of control:

With diplomacy failing and precious intelligence just received about two new secret Iranian nuclear facilities, Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against Tehran's nuclear complex. The strike is successful, wiping out six of Iran's key sites and setting back its suspected quest for a bomb by years.

But what happens next isn't pretty.

The U.S. president and his National Security Council try to keep the crisis from escalating. That sours U.S.-Israeli relations, already stressed by the fact that Israel didn't inform Washington in advance of the strike. The White House tries to open a channel for talks with Iran, but is rejected.

Instead, Iran attacks Israel, both directly and through its proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. It misinterprets U.S. actions as weakness and mines the Straits of Hormuz, the world's chief oil artery. That sparks a clash and a massive U.S. military reinforcement in the Persian Gulf.

This recent war game conducted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, part of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, appears to dampen hopes for a simple solution to Iran's real-world nuclear challenge.

The lesson is "once you start this, it's really hard to stop it," said Kenneth Pollack, a former White House and CIA official who oversaw the simulation.

Pollack and others who participated in the day-long exercise late last year are quick to point out that war games are imperfect mirrors of reality. How Iran's notoriously opaque and fractious leadership would react in a real crisis is particularly hard to divine.

But the outcome underscores what diplomats, military officers and analysts have long said: even a "successful" airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities — setting the program back by two to four years — could come at a tremendous, unpredictable cost.

"It's ... an option that has to be looked at very, very, very carefully," a senior European diplomat said Friday. "Because we know what the results could be, and they could be disastrous." He requested anonymity to speak more frankly on the sensitive issue.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear program rose again this week after the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reported that the country could be secretly developing a nuclear warhead to be placed atop a ballistic missile. Additionally, Iran has begun enriching uranium closer to the purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon.

Israel, which sees Iran as a direct threat, has refused to rule out military force, although officials there say they are counting for now on diplomatic pressure. There have even been hints from Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, that they would look the other way in the event of a strike on Shiite Iran, a historic adversary.

Yet one of the Brookings war game's major conclusions is that Israel could pay dearly for an attack on Iran.

By the end of the simulation, eight days after the fictitious Israeli strike, Israel's prime minister, under heavy domestic pressure, is forced to launch a 48-hour air blitz in southern Lebanon to halt rocket attacks from Hezbollah, the militant group sponsored by Iran. Israeli officials know the blitz is unlikely to achieve its objectives, and prepare a larger, costlier operation in Lebanon, including ground forces.

Israel's relations with the United States, its most important ally, are damaged. To avoid damaging them further, Israel bows to intense U.S. pressure and absorbs occasional missile strikes from Iran without retaliating.

Some members of the "Israeli" team nonetheless felt that setting back Iran's nuclear program "was worth it, even given what was a pretty robust response," said one participant. He asked that his name not be used, because under the game's ground rules, participants are supposed to remain anonymous.

Jonathan Peled, an Israeli embassy spokesman, declined comment on the war game or its outcome.

"All we can say is that Iran constitutes a threat not only to Israel but to the region, to the US and to the world at large, and therefore should be addressed without delay by the international community, first and foremost through effective sanctions," he said.

The Brookings war game was one of three simulations regarding Iran's nuclear program conducted in December. The other two, at Harvard University and Tel Aviv University, reportedly found that neither sanctions nor threats dissuaded Tehran from its suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.

In the Brookings game, three teams of experts, including former senior U.S. officials, played the Israeli, Iranian and American leadership. They assembled in separate rooms at the think tank's Washington headquarters. Israeli and U.S. "officials" communicated with each other, but not with the Iranians.

One of the simulation's major findings was how aggressively the Iranians responded to the attack — more aggressively, some participants felt, than they would in real life — and how Washington and Tehran, lacking direct communication, misunderstood each other.

Iran did not retaliate directly against the United States or U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it struck back at Israel, then attacked Dharan in eastern Saudi Arabia, then began mining the Straits of Hormuz.

"There would be almost no incentive for Iran not to respond" with force, said another participant, a member of the Iranian team. "It was interesting to see how useful it was for Tehran to push the limits."

Without knowing it, Iran's last two actions crossed U.S. "red lines," prompting an American military response.

"No one came out on top — (but) arguably the Iranians," the Iran team member said.

The Tehran regime was also able to crush its domestic political opposition.