Iran says it arrested killers of nuclear scientists
Teheran’s intelligence services claim to uncover wide network operating against Islamic Republic; allege Mossad, US, UK involvement.
Speaking in a television interview, Moslehi said that Iranian intelligence agencies have uncovered a wide network of intelligence agencies operating against Iran, according to the report.
Separate but identical bomb attacks killed two prominent Iranian nuclear scientists in Teheran on Monday.
Iranian state television said attackers riding on motorcycles attached bombs to the car windows of the scientists as they were driving to their workplaces.
One bomb killed Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the Tehran University, and wounded his wife.
The second blast killed nuclear physicist Fereidoun Abbasi.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination.”
Contrary to Wikileaks release, Iran is hugely popular among Arabs
By Abbas Edalat and Phil Wilayto
Note: A shorter version of this article was published Dec. 1 by the Guardian newspaper.
The latest batch of Wikileaks revelations give the impression that, next to Israel, it’s the Arab states that are most energetically pressuring the U.S. to attack Iran. In terms of the real threat to Iran, that’s definitely putting the cart before the horse.
In the first place, the Arab governments mentioned as being hostile to Iran – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates – are all undemocratic, unpopular regimes that depend on U.S. support to stay in power. As such, they seem to have absorbed the unrelenting years of U.S. claims that Iran is the region’s greatest threat to peace.
A completely different view, however, is held by these governments’ own subjects, among whom Iran’s independent stance actually is hugely popular. A recent Zogby International poll conducted in conjunction with the University of Maryland asked Arab people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates to name two countries they thought were the greatest threat to the region. Eighty-eight percent said Israel, 77 percent said the U.S. and only 10 percent mentioned Iran. (1)
Meanwhile, governments in the region that don’t hold a hostile view of Iran include those of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, not all of which are hostile to the U.S.
As to where the real threat to Iran comes from, it should be remembered that, despite massive US arms sales to Saudi Arabia (2), not one Arab country has the military capability of launching a serious attack against Iran. Only one country in the region has that ability: Israel.
But Israel is dependent for its continued existence on its $3 billion in annual U.S. subsidies, plus the diplomatic firewall the U.S. maintains for it in the U.N. Security Council. There is almost no way Israel could attack Iran unless it were first fully confident that it would be backed by U.S. forces, either because it had already received a green light or because it calculated Washington would have no other choice.
Without a doubt, Iran does represent a threat to U.S. imperial interests in the Middle East. Thanks to its large oil and gas reserves, and the fact that those resources are controlled by its government, Iran has been able to emerge from a devastating Western-supported eight-year war of aggression by Iraq as an independent economic, military and political regional power. Iran takes no orders from Washington or London, its natural resources are off-limits to exploitation by Western corporations and it has no love for the wealthy, corrupt, pro-Western governments that dominate the area.
As such, Iran represents an obstacle to the hegemony the U.S. desires. But openly declaring hegemony to be its goal would win no friends among either local governments or populations, so the U.S. has resorted to fabricating the myth of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, much as it promoted support for a war against Iraq by creating a myth about weapons of mass destruction, ties to al-Qaeda and links to the attacks of 9/11. President Bush also authorized support for a number of terrorist organizations to destabilize the Islamic Republic of Iran. (3)
Although the U.S. has been charging for some eight years that Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a cover for the development of nuclear weapons, it has never provided the first shred of proof. And yet, U.S. charges of an Iranian nuclear weapons program have formed the basis for four sets of U.N. sanctions against Iran.
The latest, implemented in June 2010, has been based on “evidence” the U.S. provided of alleged Iranian plans to redesign a certain kind of missile to accommodate nuclear warheads. However, as revealed recently by investigative reporter Gareth Porter, the “evidence” refers to an outmoded missile Iran had stopped using years ago. It is simply a fabrication similar to the fabricated evidence against Iraq (4).
Despite some disagreement over how much of its nuclear-related activities Iran is legally required to disclose, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reported on Nov. 23 of this year that it “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear materials in Iran.”
And in the Arab poll referred to above, 77 percent said that Iran should have the right to its nuclear program and should not be pressured to stop its activities.
No, the principle threat to peace in the Middle East, at least as regards to Iran is concerned, remains the United States, which for years, prodded by nuclear-armed Israel, has declared that in dealing with Iran, “all options are on the table.” As such, the onus is on the U.S. to remove this threat once and for all.
On Dec. 5, Iran is scheduled to begin revived negotiations with representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, plus Germany. This would be an ideal time for Washington to make the following declaration: that it will not attack Iran, will not allow an attack by Israel, will end all sanctions against Iran, will recognize Iran’s right under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty to pursue peaceful nuclear power, will return Iran’s nuclear file from the U.N. Security Council to the IAEA in exchange for Iran’s already stated pledge to allow the intrusive inspections of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and will agree to discuss all outstanding differences in a spirit of mutual respect.
WikiLeaks cable warns of ‘widening crime war’ in Israel
The cable is signed by Ambassador James Cunningham, but appears to have been written by the American consul in Tel Aviv as a note on visa restrictions for members of Israel’s organized crime syndicate.
The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv expressed concern to the State Department over the “sharp increase” of organized crime in Israel, in an unclassified diplomatic cable dispatched in May 2009 and revealed by WikiLeaks this week.
Entitled “Israel, a promise land for organized crime?”, the cable notes that while organized crime has “long-standing roots” in Israel, certain factors indicate that a “widening crime war” has begun to spiral.
|Police cordon off a Tel Aviv crime scene|
|Photo by: Archive|
“In seeking a competitive advantage in such lucrative trades as narcotics and prostitution, Israeli crime groups have demonstrated their ability and willingness to engage in violent attacks on each other with little regard for innocent bystanders,” said the cable.
The cable cites the death of 31-year-old Margarita Lautin, who was killed in the cross-fire of an attempted mob hit in Bat Yam, and also car bomb that killed a driver and two pedestrians while targeting crime boss Yossi Alperon.
The document also details the web of crime families in Israel, and expresses concern that the number of syndicates was growing.
The cable is signed by Ambassador James Cunningham, but appears to have been written by the American consul in Tel Aviv as a note on visa restrictions for members of Israel’s organized crime syndicate.
The cable details worry that Israeli crime syndicates were playing a “significant role in the global drug trade, providing both a local consumer market and an important transit point to Europe and the United States.”
“Given the volume of travel and trade between the United States and Israel, it is not surprising that Israeli OC has also gained a foothold in America,” says the cable.
“The consular section has revoked several visas for those who have been convicted of crimes in Israel, but many OC figures have no prior criminal convictions and carry no visa ineligibilities,” says the cable. “As a result, many hold valid nonimmigrant visas to the United States and have traveled freely or attempted to travel for a variety of purposes.”
The author of the cable seems most worried by the fact that unlike members of crimes families from other countries, “Israelis who are known to work for or belong to OC families are not automatically ineligible for travel to the United States.”
The cable also notes a lack of law enforcement against organized crime, though it said police seemed to have been cracking down more in recent years.
“[Organized Crime] figures have generally been viewed as a nuisance to be handled by local police,” writes the cable. “Law enforcement resources were directed to more existential security threats from terrorists and enemy states,” writes the cable.
“In recent years, however, the rules of the game have changed… The old school of Israel OC is giving way to a new, more violent, breed of crime,” says the cable.”… The new style of crime features knowledge of hi-tech explosives acquired from service in the Israeli Defense Forces, and a willingness to use indiscriminate violence, at least against rival gang leaders.”
Despite the police crackdown and harsher sentences for members of crime syndicates, the cable warns that “increased efforts by Israeli authorities to combat OC have engendered retaliatory threats of violence.”
“Recent press reports indicate that as many as 10 Israeli judges are currently receiving 24-hour protection by the police against the threat of violence from members of crime organizations.
“Israeli OC appears to be intent on intimidating judges personally, as a way of influencing the legal process. Judges in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa have been assigned police protection, underscoring the depth of the problem.”
U.K. to restrict ability to charge foreigners with war crimes
Israel stopped sending delegations to Britain for fear pro-Palestinian activists would seek their arrest for alleged war crimes.
(Reuters) Britain has proposed legal changes restricting citizens’ right to seek the arrest of foreign politicians for alleged war crimes, tackling an issue that has caused tension with Israel, officials said on Wednesday.
Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the planned change, accusing the government of handing war criminals “a free ticket to escape the law.”
|British Foreign Secretary William Hague meets Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv, November 4, 2010.|
|Photo by: AP|
The proposals, part of police reform legislation introduced into parliament on Tuesday, fulfil a promise of the seven-month-old coalition government to amend a law that has drawn protests from Israel.
Under existing British law, private individuals can start criminal prosecutions, including for international war crimes, by applying to a magistrate for a court summons or an arrest warrant. Magistrates do not need to decide whether there is a realistic chance of conviction.
Under the proposed new law, which could take months to make its way through parliament, the Director of Public Prosecutions would have to agree to an arrest warrant being issued in such a case.
“This is to ensure that people suspected of some of the most heinous crimes, wherever in the world they took place, can still be brought to justice in our courts but … only where there is a prospect of successful prosecution,” a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain’s core principle remained that people guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice. The proposed legal change was designed to correct an anomaly that allowed “the U.K.’s systems to be abused for political reasons,” he said in a statement.
Israel halts strategic talks
Israel said last month it had stopped sending delegations to Britain for routine strategic talks out of fear pro-Palestinian activists would seek their arrest for alleged war crimes.
Last year, a British court issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on war crimes charges but withdrew it upon finding she had cancelled a planned trip to Britain, according to media reports.
The Israeli government summoned the British ambassador to protest over the incident.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has said that the legal jeopardy faced by Israeli politicians and military officers could damage Britain’s efforts to play a role in Middle East peacemaking.
Amnesty International’s U.K. director, Kate Allen, said the proposed amendment sent the wrong signal and showed Britain was “soft” on war crimes and torture. “The current process allows victims of crimes under international law to act quickly against suspected perpetrators,” she said in a statement.
The planned amendment risked introducing delays that could allow suspects to flee, she added, calling the change “dangerous and unnecessary.”
“Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the U.K. will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law,” she said.
Turkish official: Israel initiated massive leak
Jewish state initiated massive WikiLeaks report, senior official in Erdogan’s party says
Further deterioration in ties: The Israeli government initiated the massive WikiLeaks disclosure this week in the aims of pushing Turkey into a corner, a senior official in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged Wednesday.
“We should look at the countries that are satisfied by the leak, and Israel is very satisfied,” said Huseyin Celik, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party.
Erdogan calls WikiLeaks docs ‘gossip’ / AFP
Turkish prime minister visibly upset by leaked cables which claim he has eight Swiss bank accounts with private funds and surrounds himself with fawning advisors; says US must ‘hold cable writers accountable for slander’
Celik, who also serves as the party’s spokesman, said in a press conference that Turkey started to suspect that “the leak’s main objective was to weaken the Turkish government.”
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul already hinted Tuesday that the massive leak was the result of “systematic work.” However, Gul and other government members refrained from directly naming Israel.
But Wednesday, Spokesman Celik, who is closely associated with Turkish PM Erdogan, did not hold back while emphasizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks hours before the WikiLeaks publication as a telltale sign Israel was being the leak.
“Even before the documents were exposed, they said that ‘Israel won’t be damaged.’ How did they know?” he said.
Some 8,000 documents of the more than 250,000 to be published by WikiLeaks arrived from the American embassy in Turkey. A similar number was originated from the US embassy in Tel Aviv
Israeli FM Lieberman–Erase the word ‘freeze’ from vocabulary
(AFP) – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Wednesday for the word “freeze” to be erased from the vocabulary in Israel, as he repeated his opposition to new curbs on settlement construction.
His comments come as the United States drafts a package of incentives intended to convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reimpose a ban on settlement construction that expired in September.
The Palestinians have refused to continue direct peace talks that started shortly before the ban expired until the moratorium is reimposed, but many in Israel, including ultra-nationalist Lieberman, oppose any new freeze.
“I think, like many others, that there will not be another freeze. We must erase the word freeze from our vocabulary,” he told Israeli public radio.
“We saw what the previous 10-month freeze got us — it didn’t achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations,” said the chief diplomat.
Lieberman added there was “a growing consensus that it is impossible to reach a definitive peace deal in a year.”
He reiterated his position the conflict would be better managed by reaching interim deals that could eventually lead to long-term agreements.
The United States is seeking an additional three-month settlement freeze in the West Bank to allow new direct talks to proceed, with the goal of reaching a final agreement within a year.
In exchange, Washington has offered a package of incentives, including fighter jets and diplomatic assistance for Israel at the United Nations.
But a final formula has yet to be reached, despite weeks of wrangling over the terms of any new freeze.
Netanyahu also faces opposition to a new freeze within his cabinet and has pledged any additional ban would not apply to east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have said they will not return to negotiations if the moratorium does not extend to east Jerusalem, which they want for the capital of their future state.
Hillary Clinton says leak of diplomatic cables will not damage US diplomacy
(AP) The leak of thousands of sensitive U.S. embassy cables will not hurt American diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Wednesday at a security summit.
Clinton said she has discussed the revelations published on the WikiLeaks website with her colleagues at the summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The event is the first major international meeting of leaders and top diplomats since the memos began appearing on the website and in international publications this week.
The secret memos published by WikiLeaks contain frank details on several leaders attending the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting. One note allegedly written by a U.S. diplomat in Kazakhstan details scenes of hard-drinking hedonism by several senior Kazakh ministers. The same report describes Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as horse-obsessed and given to taking refuge from the often-frigid capital at a holiday home in the United Arab Emirates.
Other prospective conference delegates described less than flatteringly in the leaked cables include Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
“I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing,” Clinton said. “I have not any had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward.”
Several officials at the summit echoed her comments.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who met Wednesday with Clinton, released a statement saying the “recent Wikileaks disclosures would not affect our uniquely strong relationship.”
Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev also said “this will have no bearing on our strategic relationship.”
The Obama administration has harshly criticized the leaking of the cables, saying the details in them could put lives at risk.
“I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world,” Clinton added.
On the sidelines of the summit, Clinton and her Belarussian counterpart, Sergei Martynov, announced that the former Soviet republic of Belarus will give up its stockpile of material used to make nuclear weapons by 2012.
That’s a significant step forward in efforts aimed at reducting the risk of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists, and follows similar commitments made by other former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan. Washington will provide technical and financial help to enable Belarus to dispose of its highly enriched uranium stocks.
Clinton said the Obama administration is encouraged that Iran has agreed to return to Geneva for a new round of international talks on its disputed nuclear program. However, a uranium-exchange agreement that was announced following talks with Iran in October 2009 — but which later unraveled — would have to be modified to take into account the fact that Iran has since produced more enriched uranium, she said.
The OSCE was born in the 1970s to nurture rapprochement between Cold War enemies. But the organization has in recent years struggled to define a clear purpose — an anxiety reflected in the speeches of many leaders at the Astana summit. Failure to achieve any breakthrough in Europe’s various territorial stalemates, from Moldova’s separatist Trans-Dniester region to the perennial tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, has served as an embarrassing reminder of the OSCE’s weakness to effect significant change.
In a thinly veiled broadside at Russia, Clinton chided efforts to obstruct the placement of an OSCE mission in Georgia, whose own territorial integrity has been undermined by Moscow’s diplomatic and financial support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“It is regrettable that a participating state has proposed to host a mission, and the OSCE has not been allowed to respond,” Clinton said.
Russia fought a brief but intense war with Georgia over South Ossetia in 2008.
Former US ambassador to UN during Bush administration tells ‘Post’ he is mulling GOP presidential run to reassert strong US foreign policy.
(jpost.com) WASHINGTON – John Bolton is mulling a run for president because he believes the US needs to recover its international standing and be more assertive, including being willing to bomb Iran and scrap the two-state solution.
“Both our friends and our adversaries alike have assessed this as a very weak administration, uncomfortable with asserting American interests or defending them, particularly through the use of force internationally,” Bolton told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Tuesday.
“To raise national security back into the center of the debate – which is where I think it belongs – it could well take a presidential candidacy, because that is what helps focus people’s attention on these issues and that’s why I’m thinking of doing it.”
The former under secretary of state for arms control and US ambassador to the UN during the George W. Bush administration, Bolton identified proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism as the top challenges facing America, along with the threat of nuclear Iran.
Bolton, who would seek the Republican nomination should he run, rejected the idea that sanctions could eventually affect Iran’s nuclear ambitions as some in the US and even Israel have suggested.
“The most likely outcome with respect to Iran is that it gets nuclear weapons and very, very soon,” he said. “Given that diplomacy has failed, given that sanctions have failed, the only alternative to an Iran with nuclear weapons is a limited military strike against the nuclear weapons program.”
Though he said he doesn’t prefer such action, he believes it’s better than the alternatives. And he dismissed the argument that a focused strike would cause regional instability, pointing to Wikileaks’ dissemination of diplomatic cables this week showing Arab support for an attack.
“A preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program would not cause chaos in the Middle East because the Arab states don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons any more than Israel does,” he said.
Bolton noted, however, that taking coordinated action could be harder because of the leaks and the concerns allies abroad will now have about working with America. But he assessed it would be a temporary rather than long-term setback.
Bolton does not believe two-state solution is working
He also said the revealed Arab support also punctures the Obama administration’s contention that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was needed to help rally the Arab world’s help on Iran.
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bolton doesn’t think the current effort to forge a two-state solution is working.
“I think the entire model of the two-state solution has failed,” he declared. “There’s nobody on the Palestinian side that you can trust who will make the hard commitments necessary to achieve peace or who will be able to carry them out into the future.”
Instead, he proposed a “three-state solution” which would include the admittedly unpopular moves of returning Gaza to Egypt and the Palestinian areas of the West Bank back to Jordan.
According to Bolton, the current US-Israel negotiations to extend the settlement freeze in return for 20 F-35 fighter planes also makes for unwise conditioning.
“That’s a destructive kind of relationship for both countries,” he warned.
Still, he said it wouldn’t be difficult to reset relations with Israel under a new White House.
“I don’t think that would be hard,” he estimated. “Frankly, I’m not aware of any potential Republican candidate for president who couldn’t do a better job on this issue than Obama.”
Whether he could be a successful Republican candidate, however, is another question.
Bolton acknowledges that he’s never run for elected office let alone the presidency and would need to consult with his family and give serious thought to the obstacles before making a decision.
Political expert Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, however, gave Bolton no chance of being successful in getting the nomination.
“He has little visibility and no support except among a very small group of neoconservative interventionists,” he said. “Moreover, he has no experience in elective politics and has an abrasive personality not well-suited to retail politicking.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, called Bolton “the longest of long shots” for the Republican nomination, adding that he’s “enough of a realist to know that.”
Instead of running to win office, Sabato saw Bolton as launching a campaign in order to raise the profile of certain issues.
“If you want to get some of the issues that you believe need to be discussed on the table, you run for president,” he explained.
“This could be a campaign that is dominated overwhelmingly by economic and other domestic issues,” Sabato continued, noting Bolton’s interest in ensuring that foreign affairs are also addressed.
Bolton himself admitted his interest in highlighting international and security priorities, saying, “I’ve been concerned for the past two years that there has not been adequate attention to foreign policy and national security issues.”
But he emphasized that if he enters the race it will be a sincere bid.
“If I get in this, I get in it to win,” he said.
Experts: No Evidence North Korea Sent Iran Missiles
Claims From Diplomatic Cable Shaky, at Best
Substantive but, as it turns out, extremely dubious, as experts are now saying that the allegation made in the cable, as experts say the allegation shows a lack of firm evidence that Iran ever obtained any such missiles.
Beyond that experts say there is no good evidence the missiles in question even exist, as North Korea has never shown it to be operational or conducted any tests involving one.
The allegation was key for the US, however, as it would, if true, be an excuse for the major missile defense deployments in Europe, nominally aimed at Iran but far outside their known missile range. This would have ideally placated Russia and given the US another excuse to rail against Iran. Or it would, if it was actually true.
Unstable Pakistan Has US on Edge
(AFP) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari: “Stated flatly to Ambassador that the government of Pakistan would have no choice but to retaliate if attacked, and post has no doubt they are sincere.”
The US diplomatic cables provide deep insights into the true extent of Pakistan’s true volatility. American Embassy dispatches show that the military and the Pakistani intelligence agency are heavily involved in the atomic power’s politics — and often work against US interests.
The instructions came directly from then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and she didn’t beat around the bush. “Express Washington’s strong opposition to the release of Dr. Khan and urge the Government of Pakistan to continue holding him under house arrest,” Rice wrote to her ambassador, Anne Patterson, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
It was April 2008, and the US administration was deeply concerned about reports that the man widely believed to be the biggest nuclear smuggler of all time, Pakistan’s Abdul Qadir Khan, could soon be a free man. Khan had allegedly supported North Korea, Iran and Libya in their nuclear programs by supplying them with plans and centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Although the Americans had exposed his proliferation ring back in 2004, and the nuclear scientist had confessed, probably under pressure from the government, Khan was never indicted or convicted in Pakistan, but merely placed under house arrest.
Ambassador Patterson, a resolute 59-year-old from Arkansas, immediately went into action. Her key contact was the head of the army’s Strategic Plans Division, Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, who was responsible for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai had previously made sure that Khan was unable to do any further damage. Patterson also spoke with then-President Pervez Musharraf, who assured the US ambassador that there was nothing to worry about: “He will not be released.”
Kidwai, however, saw complications: “His legal status was that he was a free man. … If he tried to walk out today, … the government of Pakistan had no legal grounds to stop him.”
On Feb. 6, 2009, a court rescinded Khan’s house arrest, effective immediately. The news caught the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, completely off guard. Ambassador Patterson, for her part, was incensed over the “persistent lack of coordination” of the government in Islamabad. In response to her protest, however, Zardari and his interior minister guaranteed her that they would try to “establish a legal basis for Khan’s detention.”
That is exactly what they did. Today, Khan is once again cut off from the rest of the world. He is fighting a renewed legal battle in the courts against his house arrest — a state of affairs whose main purpose is to appease the Americans.
The Pakistanis’ sophisticated nuclear program is one of the main reasons why the US continues to increase its involvement in the region. The Americans know how unstable the country is, and how weak the government is. They also reveal how the Pakistani military and intelligence agency play the political game according to their own rules.
Hundreds of the diplomatic protocols deal exclusively with the threat posed by the nuclear weapons that the US’s unstable ally has in its possession. “Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon,” reads one dispatch sent by the embassy in Islamabad to Richard Holbrooke, the US’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Taking Pakistan’s Nukes
The Americans would prefer to have complete control over the Pakistani nuclear arsenal but, as the reports show, they are a long way from achieving this goal. During his visit, Holbrooke merely received a briefing on the “physical, personnel and command and control safeguards for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” The security technology at the nuclear facilities was significantly improved with help from the US. Nevertheless, the Pakistanis firmly reject any further involvement on the part of the Americans.
For instance, they oppose the plan for “fuel removal” to the US. The Americans supplied these elements for use in a research reactor a number of years ago. The man responsible for this decision, the director for disarmament in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, justified the endless delays by saying “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.’”
These nuclear warheads are located in a country where it is unclear who stands on which side. To make matters worse, it’s hard to determine exactly what role the country’s notorious intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), plays in Pakistan. It’s rare that anyone expresses themselves as clearly as John Dister of the National Intelligence Council, a think tank for the US intelligence agencies. “When the ISI supports the Taliban, one can assume it is acting on government of Pakistan orders,” Dister is quoted as telling NATO allies in early 2008, at a time when President Musharraf was still governing. According to the dispatch, Dister “noted the huge anxiety in Pakistan leadership circles that US/NATO will pull out of Afghanistan in the near future, leaving chaos, thus causing the ISI to maintain links with Taliban as a hedge.” Dister added that Pakistan’s intelligence community is also motivated by fears that India may become more actively involved in Afghanistan.
Relations between Pakistan and the US are a constant rollercoaster ride, full of tensions and an endless tug-of-war over concessions, military operations and opposing notions of strategies. US senators, top military brass and US special envoy Richard Holbrooke make a steady stream of visits to Islamabad. Because of the billions of dollars in military aid that it gives to Pakistan, the US reserves the right to intervene in the country’s security issues, up to and including decisions about key positions.
‘Out of Control’
“We have learned since 9/11 that Pakistan responds, periodically, to US pressure on counter-terrorism; we should continue to press for action on specific agenda items.” This was the advice issued by Ambassador Patterson during the summer of 2008, in the run-up to a visit to the US by the new Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Patterson listed all the things that the US chief of staff and the deputy head of the CIA achieved during a recent visit to Islamabad, which included the Pakistani authorities “arresting several Taliban shura members in Quetta” and “initiating an Army operation in North Waziristan.” She also wrote that “we expect they will allow another B-300 surveillance aircraft to operate.”
But the diplomat was also frustrated over all the things that had failed: “The government of Pakistan has not targeted Siraj Haqqani or his network; nor have they arrested Commander Nazir or Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. These militants are responsible for much of the 40 percent increase in cross-border attacks on our troops in Afghanistan this year.” And although President Musharraf had acknowledged that “elements of ISI may be out of control,” he remained “reluctant to replace ISI Director Nadeem Taj,” she wrote.
Shortly after Musharraf’s resignation as president in August 2008, however, the Pakistani Army’s then-head of military operations, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was appointed as the new director-general of the ISI. Pasha is an experienced commander who has conducted numerous operations in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan. In comparison to Taj, he has a reputation for being a cosmopolitan man who speaks not only English but also German; years ago, Pasha attended a number of courses at the Bundeswehr’s military academy in Hamburg.
The Pakistani government and the army regularly protest against the US use of drones in the tribal areas along the border to Afghanistan. The attacks, they say, violate Pakistani sovereignty and cause an increasing number of civilian deaths. In the dispatches from the US Embassy in Islamabad, however, the Pakistanis are much less harsh in their critique.
ISI head Pasha praised the weapons in comments to members of the Pakistani parliament. “The vast majority of those killed in drone attacks,” he said, “were foreign fighters or Taliban.”
Part 2: On the Brink of War between India and Pakistan
Many of the discussions between Islamabad and Washington deal with the topic of money, with billions of dollars involved. The war on terror in Pakistan is expensive, and for many it is also big business. In September 2009, for instance, the Pakistani finance minister complained once again to US special envoy Holbrooke that a payment of $500 million still needed to be made. The top diplomat responded that Washington couldn’t transfer the amount “because the Pakistani military had not properly accounted for its spending.” He added that Congress “required stricter accounting” for Coalition Support Fund (CSF) monies. CSF funding is the money that the US uses to buy the military cooperation of foreign countries in the so-called war on terror. Nobody receives more CSF money than Pakistan. Over the past nine years, over $7 billion in CSF funds have been transferred to the country, with even more money coming from other sources.
Nonetheless, the head of the army, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said he wanted to account for the funding “following UN standards,” — in other words, by naming lump sums. He didn’t want to have to give an exact account of how he was using the money. The diplomatic protocols make it clear that General Kayani is the most powerful man in Pakistan. They also show the weakness of the civilian president, Zardari. Zardari and his people “agree that Pakistan’s biggest threat comes from a growing militant insurgency on the Pak-Afghan border,” Patterson wrote in February 2009, shortly before Kayani’s visit to Washington. “The military and ISI have not yet made that leap; they still view India as their principle threat and Afghanistan as strategic depth in a possible conflict with India. They continue to provide overt or tacit support for proxy forces (including the Haqqani group, Commander Nazir, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and Lashkar-e-Taiba) as a foreign policy tool.”
At the same time, she portrayed General Kayani as “often direct, frank, and thoughtful.”
Disdain for the New President
Only a few months after Zardari had been sworn into office, Kayani and the ISI director-general Pasha were making no secret of the fact that they felt disdain for the new president. “Kayani and Pasha’s body language was disrespectful of their own president,” then-Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar indignantly told the Americans in the spring of 2009.
In November of last year, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik even urgently requested a meeting at the US Embassy in Islamabad because, as he put it, the government needed political protection for the president. According to Malik, ISI Director-General Pasha was spinning intrigues against Zardari. The US ambassador was not convinced that Pasha was acting alone. “Malik’s view that ISI Director-General Pasha is behind the moves against President Zardari and that Chief of Army Staff Kayani is not involved is either naive or intentionally misleading,” she wrote to the US State Department. “It would be impossible for Pasha to move without Kayani’s acquiescence.”
Anything is possible at any time in Pakistan, be it an assassination or a military coup. But tensions have rarely been higher than on Nov. 26, 2008, when a group of extremists from the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba traveled by boat from Karachi to Mumbai and carried out simultaneous attacks at 10 different locations. It took nearly 3 days before all 10 assailants had been overpowered. A total of 175 people died, and only one attacker survived, the Pakistani Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab. “I was prepared to go to India,” ISI Director-General Pasha said a few weeks later in a SPIEGEL interview at his office in Islamabad. The diplomatic dispatches to the US administration now reveal just how crucial the issue of Pasha’s visit to India was during these chaotic days.
Both nuclear powers began to put their armies on alert. According to the embassy reports, then-Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee even apparently threatened Zardari over the phone with war. A military exchange between the neighboring arch-enemies threatened to spark a disaster for the entire region, which could engulf the entire world. “Both Chief of Army Staff General Kayani and President Zardari have stated flatly to Ambassador that the government of Pakistan would have no choice but to retaliate if attacked, and post has no doubt they are sincere,” reads a classified US dispatch. Embassy officials wrote that the Indians were convinced that the Pakistani intelligence agency had prior knowledge of the attack and had approved it. These suspicions could not be confirmed, but it is true that the ISI has provided Lashkar-e-Taiba with massive support, and that the terror group is fighting a guerrilla war against the Indians in Kashmir.
Cooperating with a Sworn Enemy
In Islamabad, communication between the military and the civilian government had become muddled and confused. Zardari gave his army chief only cursory information about his contacts with the US, other allies and India. The main challenge was to figure out how, if at all, Pakistan could cooperate with their sworn enemy India.
ISI head Pasha said that he was prepared to share intelligence information with the Indians, after assurances from the CIA that only the Indian intelligence agency would use the information — and that it would not be leaked to the public domain. On the other hand, nobody in Islamabad knew whether the Indians were even prepared to openly discuss what they knew with the Pakistanis. “If Pasha is embarrassed by what is essentially public dissemination without the Indians providing the results of their own investigation to Pakistan, it will undercut Pakistan’s ability to pursue its investigation, generate a public backlash in Pakistan, and could undermine Pasha personally,” wrote the US Embassy in Islamabad. For the time being, no exchange took place.
Amid the confused flurry of messages between the two governments, the media suddenly started reporting that Islamabad was supposedly sending Pasha to India. Then-British Foreign Minister David Miliband had been among the people who urged Pakistan to take the step, as a symbol of goodwill. In Pakistan, however, many felt that this gesture of reconciliation went too far, and the army leadership also opposed it.
Missiles in the Sandbox
Ultimately, President Zardari wanted to keep Pasha as a trump card, should the conflict with India further escalate. He told the Americans that it was “too early” for a meeting with the head of the intelligence agency: “Let the evidence come to light, let the investigation take its course. Then perhaps there is a position where the directors general could meet … The DG (Pasha) is too senior a person to get into who overall looks into the investigation.”
Shortly thereafter, Pakistani law enforcement officials arrested 124 suspects and tensions eased somewhat. The Pakistanis pressed charges against seven of those detained. But the trials of the defendants have been dragging on for a suspiciously long time. A war has been averted, but this certainly does not mean that anything has changed significantly. There is still a persistent air of mistrust on all sides. In December 2009, FBI agents informed the ISI that they had made a big catch: David Coleman Headley, an American citizen with a Pakistani father, who had scouted out targets in Mumbai on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba. He is believed to be one of the ring leaders behind the operation. Headley has pleaded guilty to the charges.
But the Pakistanis have never been allowed to question Headley in the US. In return, the ISI has refused to allow the Americans direct access to an alleged Headley accomplice, a former officer in the Pakistani army. All of this smacks of squabbling in the sandbox. But there are nuclear missiles in this particular sandbox.
U.S. Medic Jailed For Firing on Unarmed Afghans
Who are you going to believe, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs or your own eyes?
That is the question Americans are faced with today, following an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show in which he declared that calls for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign were “ridiculous and absurd.”
Gibbs went on to say that Secretary Clinton had never ordered diplomats to spy on UN Security Council officials, despite WikiLeaks’ public release of a classified document signed by Secretary Clinton explicitly ordering diplomats to spy on UN Security Council officials.
The revelation has prompted serious concerns as it shows, conclusively, that Secretary Clinton ordered spying against top UN officials and the stealing of their credit card numbers and other personal data in clear contravention to both US and international law. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is said to be planning to remind the Obama Administration that this is in fact a serious crime.
So far however US officials both past and present have met the leaks with complete dismissal, attempting to make the entire story about exactly how many people ought to be executed for embarrassing those in power. It seems that things like “proof” are too far outside their general field of expertise to even register.
Obama’s Lose-Lose: WikiLeaks Releases Put Obama in Untenable Position
Leaks Unveil Embarrassing Policies, Overt Crime
TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) – A U.S. Army medic was sentenced to nine months in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to shooting at unarmed Afghan farmers and agreeing to testify against other soldiers accused of terrorizing civilians.
Five of the 12 soldiers are accused of premeditated murder in the most serious prosecution of alleged atrocities by U.S. military personnel since the war began in late 2001.
Several are alleged to have collected severed fingers and other human remains as war trophies in Afghanistan.
In the first court-martial in the case, Staff Sergeant Robert Stevens, 25, admitted opening fire on two Afghan men for no apparent reason, saying he and other soldiers were acting on orders from a squad leader during a patrol in March.
“I performed those actions and I did it,” he said when asked by the presiding officer why he pleaded guilty to charges that carried a maximum penalty of nearly 20 years in prison.
The charge of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon was the most serious of four offenses to which Stevens, an Army veteran of 7-1/2 years, pleaded guilty at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.
The case began as an investigation into hashish use by members of what was then known as the 5th Stryker Brigade but grew into a probe of what prosecutors have described as an infantry unit run amok.
A potentially explosive aspect is the existence of dozens of grisly photos that four of the defendants are accused of having taken of war dead, some of them showing U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses.
The images, so far sealed from public view, have drawn comparisons with pictures of Iraqi prisoners taken by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004.
“THE RIGHT THING TO DO”
Stevens, though not regarded as one of the leading figures in the case, was court-martialled first because he waived his rights to a preliminary proceeding.
As part of the deal, military prosecutors said they would grant Stevens immunity from further charges in exchange for his testimony against the 11 other soldiers.
“It’s the right thing to do and I’m going to do it,” he said at the hearing.
The three other charges against Stevens were wrongfully tossing a grenade out of his vehicle during a convoy last spring, making false statements to military investigators and dereliction of duty.
He pleaded not guilty to a fifth charge, conspiracy to commit assault, stemming from the shooting incident involving the two Afghan farmers.
Prosecutors sought a prison term of at least 18 months.
Stevens will serve his nine months at a military brig on his home base. He will be demoted to E-1 private, the lowest rank in the Army, and forfeit his pay while in prison but will be allowed to stay in the military.
Despite Conclusive Evidence, White House Denies Clinton Ordered Spying
Gibbs Praises Hillary, Rejects Calls for Resignation
President Obama is increasingly finding himself in a no-win situation with regards to the WikiLeaks releases, as his pretense of support for transparent and honest government goes up in smoke in the face of secretive and in some cases downright criminal policies.
This has left the White House on the one hand sticking up for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by denying that she ordered crimes for which orders clearly exist signed in her own hand, and claims of weakness from would-be 2012 presidential candidates calling for mass executions.
Indeed, the actual damage done to America’s foreign policy so far appears comparatively minimal, with most of its key allies (Turkey being a notable exception) shrugging off evidence of State Department dirty dealings as unsurprising or trying to spin them to suit their own agendas. But his attempts to carve out a niche in his response to WikiLeaks that involves hysterical condemnations but stops well short of a Soviet style massacre of dissidents seems to be satisfying no one.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the president, after taking office on a mantra of change and a policy of continuity, would be placed into such a position, but it appears to have come surprisingly fast and to have left him no easy political escape. He cannot accept responsibility for the content of the WikiLeaks releases without firing (and prosecuting) many of his State Department appointees, who in all likelihood really were following policies he laid the groundwork for. Likewise though he has tried to make such claims of power under the guise of the global war on terror, it seems virtually impossible that he would be able to launch the sort of public wholesale slaughter that would render his rivals unable to accuse him of weakness.
Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe
The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain’s National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, “creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture.” The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation’s “universal jurisdiction” law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.
Soon after the request was made, the US embassy in Madrid began tracking the matter. On April 1, embassy officials spoke with chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who indicated that he was not pleased to have been handed this case, but he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he’d have to pursue it. Around that time, the acting deputy chief of the US embassy talked to the chief of staff for Spain’s foreign minister and a senior official in the Spanish Ministry of Justice to convey, as the cable says, “that this was a very serious matter for the USG.” The two Spaniards “expressed their concern at the case but stressed the independence of the Spanish judiciary.”